Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of the Minnesota Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (MnAMP) project, which developed the Learn Work Earn learning model to address workforce skills gap and manufacturing industry needs in Minnesota.
- The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using qualitative and quantitative data collected through site visits; student surveys; questionnaires; interviews; focus groups; wage and employment data; bi-weekly conference calls; and review of project documents.
- The study found the MnAMP's Learn Work Earn learning model had high fidelity for design implementation and responded well to change. The noted key program strengths were quality, short-term training, customization, convenience, and innovation. Other strengths included: exemplary systematic reform, a restructured curriculum and learning experience, and a web-biased longitudinal data tracking system.
- The MnAMP implementation study had a comprehensive study design with multiple data sources and clear research questions; however, it lacked quality assurance procedures for data collection and detailed information about the sample.
- The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in May of 2020.
Minnesota Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (MnAMP) Program
Features of the Intervention
- Type of organization: Technical and Community Colleges
- Location/setting: Multi-site in Minnesota
- Population served and scale: Adults; Low-skilled; Dislocated workers; Veterans; TAA-eligible; 3,184 participants
- Industry focus: Manufacturing
- Intervention activities: Accelerated learning; Career pathways; Developmental education; Student support services; Technology; Work-based learning
- Organizational partnerships: Employers; Workforce Development Boards; State agencies
- Cost: Not included
- Fidelity: Included
The MnAMP project was funded in 2014 by a Round 4 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The TAACCCT grant program was designed to assist community colleges in developing two-year innovative workforce education and career training programs. The MnAMP project developed and implemented the Learn Work Earn learning model to address and close the growing skills gap in the advanced manufacturing sector in the state of Minnesota. The program was targeted toward unemployed adults, including dislocated workers, veterans, and TAA-eligible workers.
The MnAMP project formed a Consortium of 12 community and technical colleges and two university Centers of Excellence that were part of the Minnesota State System. By engaging employers and other stakeholders, they aimed to develop and align manufacturing programs to meet the labor needs of the state by focusing on core curriculum with industry recognized credentials. The Learn Work Earn model provided the following services: remedial coursework, career guidance, competency-based assessment, modularized curricula, stacked/latticed credentials, apprenticeships, employer engagement, transfer articulation, and distance learning. To assist with evaluation, the MnAMP project also developed a program logic model with inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes. The inputs consisted of MnAMP institutions, TAACCCT grant funds, partnerships with employers, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), state agencies, and study participants (e.g., TAA-eligible workers, veterans, other adult learners). The logic model’s activities and outputs were outlined based on the study strategies. There were several activities such as the implementation of core curriculum, developing comprehensive assessment programs, engaging various stakeholders, and aligning curriculum to industry credentials. The outputs were directly linked to the activities and included: restructured academic framework, a system for awarding credit for prior learning, seamless transfer options and career pathways, and professional development opportunities. The model categorized the study outcomes by project, DOL, and grant. The final section of the model outlined related outcomes to the baseline conditions.
Features of the Study
The study used a mixed-methods approach, combining qualitative and quantitative data from multiple sources to evaluate program implementation. Study participants included the program staff, employers, other stakeholders, and program participating students. The main research question guiding the implementation evaluation was: "What are the factors that promote and/or inhibit implementation of the MnAMP project at both the individual college level and within the partnership?" The study data sources included: participant demographic information, transcript(s), credential(s), wage(s), and employment data; site visits to the 12 participating study sites; student surveys; questionnaires of college administrators, project coordinators, data coordinators and academic advisors; interviews and focus groups of employers; wage and employments data; bi-weekly conference calls; and review of project documents.
Fidelity was assessed using several different tools, which included: an evaluation of the program logic model to show linkages among the inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes; an analysis of project work plan deliverables, performance measures, and timelines; construction of site visit interview and focus group protocols and questionnaires of project stakeholders; and customization of the project database and related systematic data collection, validation, and reporting protocols.
- The study found that the MnAMP program responded well to change with key strengths of the program being quality, short-term training, customization, convenience, and innovation. Other strengths included: exemplary systematic reform, a restructured curriculum and learning experience, and a web-biased longitudinal data tracking system.
- The study found that the MnAMP program was well received by college leaders who valued the role that the project played in advancing their strategic goals of strengthening their manufacturing programs, industry partnership expansion, increased enrollment, faculty development and industry credentialing, equipment acquisition and integration into curricula, and expansion of apprenticeships.
- The study found that the MnAMP program was able to deliver programs that addressed higher skills and expertise levels needed by local and regional business and industry by collaborating with industry partners at the beginning of the project. To meet credentialing needs, MnAMP engaged employers, faculty, and other stakeholders in the design and delivery of content, coursework, and learning experiences.
- The study found that creating a shared vision among industry partners while co-designing the MnAMP model of career education and training proved to be a challenge for the project.
- The study found that the following strategies aided with program implementation and alignment of the programs: engaging an increased number of industry partners, designing systematic reform for the programs, increasing knowledge-sharing, better communications among partners, and stronger collaboration for the development of programs, curriculum and credentialing.
- The results of the implementation study indicated that MnAMP was successful in implementing the Learn Work Earn model with fidelity according to the original design and plan of the grant proposal.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Strengths of the study design included a mixed-methods approach with multiple data sources, clear research questions, and guidelines on how to use the data to support the research questions. Study findings were also well categorized and easily interpretable. The main weaknesses as noted by the authors included the lack of full implementation of the program by some of the colleges in the consortium and insufficient individual-level data for the comparison group. The authors also noted a lack of quality assurance procedures for data collection and a lack of detailed information about the sample or the selection criteria for the focus groups and interviews. Fidelity was assessed by the study authors and not by the CLEAR team.