Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to assess the implementation of the New Jersey Health Professions Pathways to Regional Excellence Project (NJ-PREP) which used grant funding to develop infrastructure and programming to create healthcare career pathways across a consortium of 12 community colleges located in New Jersey.
- The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using surveys, interviews, and focus groups with different stakeholders as well as document reviews. It was designed to examine the implementation of grant-funded activities and program enhancements across the NJ-PREP consortium in the last two years of the grant and identify promising practices, challenges, and strategies to promote sustainability.
- The study found that the NJ-PREP consortium allowed grant staff and faculty to be trained as Mental Health First Aid instructors and allowed member colleges to modify existing or create new programming to prepare students for employment in healthcare, to connect noncredit and credit-bearing courses and programs, and to enhance noncredit student support services.
- This implementation study used several data sources and insights from different stakeholder groups to examine implementation across the NJ-PREP consortium. However, it did not provide sufficient information with regards to how samples were determined, what external quality assurance procedures were used, and what the limitations of the study’s design were.
- The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in May 2020.
New Jersey Health Professions Pathways to Regional Excellence Project (NJ-PREP)
Features of the Intervention
- Type of organization: Community college
- Location/setting: Multi-site in New Jersey
- Population served and scale: Adults; 3,542 participants
- Industry focus: Health care and social assistance
- Intervention activities: Accelerated learning; Career pathways; Student support services; Technology; Work-based learning
- Organizational partnerships: Employers; Health Care Talent Network; Workforce system stakeholders
- Cost: Not included
- Fidelity: Not included
NJ-PREP was funded through a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Round 4 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant in 2014. This $15 million TAACCCT grant built on worked completed under a Health Professions Opportunity Grant (HPOG) received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010. Using HPOG, 10 community colleges in New Jersey created the New Jersey Health Professions consortium which provided job training related to health professions, tuition assistance, and other support services to low-income individuals. With the receipt of the TAACCCT grant, 12 community colleges (some of whom were involved in HPOG activities) along with the Health Care Talent Network (HCTN) at Rutgers University created a new consortium called NJ-PREP.
NJ-PREP used TAACCCT funds to create the college infrastructure and program activities needed for workforce preparation in healthcare professions. Specifically, member colleges developed clear career pathways, designed and enhanced programs that fostered work-based learning and offered stackable credentials, incorporated technology and simulation equipment into classroom instruction to provide hands-on training experiences, provided comprehensive advising and support to students that promoted career awareness and development, implemented a data system that tracked student information, and engaged with local employers and the workforce system to assist with job placement. A total of 3,542 participants enrolled in the consortium’s TAACCCT-funded programs. NJ-PREP’s logic model includes inputs (e.g., grant funds and partners), activities (e.g., implemented contextualized learning), outputs (e.g., created pathways that transition non-credit to credit), outcomes (e.g., program completion), and impacts (e.g., employment post-program).
Features of the Study
The implementation study used a mixed-methods approach to examine the strategies the NJ-PREP consortium employed across its 12 member colleges in the final two years of the grant period that were designed to develop and strengthen career pathways in healthcare. The study identified promising practices, lessons learned, accomplishments, and challenges experienced during this period as well as efforts to promote the sustainability of grant-funded activities and programs. Data collection included site visits that occurred twice for each member college during the last two years of the grant, whereby 274 semi-structured interviews with grant staff (such as site coordinators, job developers, and faculty) and college leadership were conducted. During these same site visits, data were also gathered from 16 focus groups comprised of students (3-10 per focus group) who participated in TAACCCT-funded programming. Interviews were also conducted with 13 employers and four workforce system staff. Additionally, surveys were completed by 264 students, seven workforce system staff, and 23 college staff. College staff also completed an additional survey regarding their relationship with employers, site coordinators were surveyed about final grant activities and operations, and documents (e.g., curriculum, presentations, and materials from program activities) were reviewed for analysis. Lastly, instructors, attendees, and staff involved in the Mental Health First Aid training were interviewed and 214 students who participated in the training were surveyed. With regards to data analysis, the authors indicated that all qualitative data were managed, coded, and analyzed using a qualitative analysis software program. The evaluation team then reviewed the data and coded it into broad themes. Open-ended survey responses were analyzed to identify dominant answer categories and to provide counts for different responses.
- Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey
- Brookdale Community College in Middletown, New Jersey
- County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey
- Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey
- Hudson County Community College in Jersey City, New Jersey
- Mercer County Community College in West Windsor Township, New Jersey
- Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey
- Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey
- Passaic County Community College in Paterson, New Jersey
- Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg Township, New Jersey
- Sussex County Community College in Newton, New Jersey
- Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey
- The study found member colleges across the NJ-PREP consortium used grant funding to modify existing programs (e.g., adding additional supplies to enhance hands-on learning, improving program alignment with industry standards by upgrading labs) or created new programs.
- The study found that at the consortium-level, grant and college staff, as well as faculty, were trained as Mental Health First Aid instructors and such certification became offered to students at some member colleges or even required as mandatory components of specific healthcare programs at others.
- The study found member colleges employed procedures (e.g., leadership coordination, intra-institutional articulation) or offered resources (e.g., classroom space, academic assistance) to help connect noncredit with credit-bearing courses and programs in healthcare.
- The study found member colleges improved noncredit student support services related to job readiness, educational preparedness, and career awareness. Some member colleges integrated Smart Start classes into their programming, hosted networking sessions that covered resume and interview preparation, or offered EdReady online modules that contextualized learning.
Implementation challenges and solutions
- The study found getting colleges’ curriculum committees to approve programs and complete the appropriate accreditation processes when applicable were time-consuming, causing delays in program implementation.
- The study found organizational and administrative differences (e.g., enrollment processes, departmental priorities, and faculty influence), leadership changes, and staff hesitancy made connecting credit and noncredit-bearing programs at community colleges difficult.
- The study found for some community colleges, it was difficult to hire for the job developer role or keep someone in that position. As a solution, some programs decided to have site coordinators assume the roles and responsibilities of the job developer instead.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The implementation study design used several data sources and gathered perspectives from diverse stakeholder groups to examine the implementation of TAACCCT-funded programs across the NJ-PREP consortium. However, the study did not provide detailed information as to how most samples for interviews and surveys were drawn from data sources or determined. In situations where the authors noted how respondents were determined for sampling, consortium staff were involved in identifying them which may result in biased findings. Additionally, the authors did not explain whether external quality assurance procedures were carried out to collect and verify data or describe the limitations that readers should consider when interpreting or assessing the generalizability of the study's findings. The report did not indicate that consent was given by study participants or if Institutional Review Board approval was obtained.