Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of Project IMPACT (Innovations Moving People to Achieve Certified Training), created by a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant, which provided enhanced instruction, student supports, and digital resources through a new manufacturing program in five Nebraska community colleges.
- The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using data collected through interviews with site coordinators and staff, annual all staff meetings, focus groups with curriculum review teams, surveys, site visits, evaluation advisory group meetings, and document review.
- The study found that colleges successfully developed the Diversified Manufacturing (DMT) program with latticed and laddered courses used at all colleges, with only slight adaptations, to allow easy student transfers. Students were offered supports through participant coaching and created or redesigned instructional modules and aids.
- The implementation study of Project IMPACT was comprehensive in its design, which incorporated both qualitative and quantitative data. All colleges, and appropriate staff at these colleges, were included in the study. Evaluators used techniques and strategies to ensure the accuracy of their findings and interpretation.
- The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in May 2020.
Project IMPACT (Innovations Moving People to Achieve Certified Training)
Features of the Intervention
- Type of organization: Community college
- Location/setting: Multi-site in Nebraska
- Population served and scale: TAA-eligible; Veterans; Un/underemployed workers; Traditional students; 1,020 participants
- Industry focus: Manufacturing
- Intervention activities: Career pathways; Student support services; Technology
- Organizational partnerships: Employers; Industry partners; State agencies; Education; Manufacturing Coalition
- Cost: Not included
- Fidelity: Not included
Project IMPACT was funded by a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (US DOL). Project IMPACT created a new Diversified Manufacturing Technology (DMT) program designed to increase the number of students that obtained industry certifications, credentials, diplomas, and degrees by providing new or redesigned online/hybrid courses, assessments and enhanced student supports (e.g., proactive coaching), digital resources for learning (e.g., a Second Life manufacturing environment), and articulation agreements with bachelor’s degree programs. Specifically, Project IMPACT included the development of four core courses in safety, production, maintenance, and quality, with resources aligned to the Manufacturing Skill Standard Council outcomes. Project IMPACT also focused on outreach efforts to recruit students for the DMT certificate program (e.g., website, brochures, public service announcements, and lunch and learns). The program was offered by five community colleges in Nebraska with partners from a state university, the state DOL, a manufacturing coalition, employers, and industries. Project IMPACT was funded October 1, 2012 and operated through 2016, offering services to 1,020 TAA-eligible adults, veterans, un/underemployed workers, and traditional students. The study authors did not include a logic model.
Features of the Study
The study design used qualitative and quantitative data collected through interviews with site coordinators and other staff, during all staff meetings, focus groups with curriculum review teams, surveys, site visits, evaluation advisory group meetings, and document review. All five Nebraska community colleges were included in the study. Up to 14 individuals participated in the curriculum review focus groups (this occurred twice). The survey sample was 27 staff members across the colleges in 2016 (the last survey); the authors note that all personnel were included. The site coordinator and participant coach were interviewed quarterly during site visits to create case study reports. These reports were supplemented with data collected during semi-annual interviews with project and support staff.
Interviews conducted during site visits were taped and then reviewed to generate notes; these notes were used to produce narrative descriptions. Pattern analysis was used to identify activities that led to desired outcomes and those that were less successful. Member checks were conducted with the project director and the project coordinators at all sites; these individuals could add or edit the case studies to ensure accuracy. The authors also noted they triangulated qualitative data with survey data.
Project IMPACT was offered at five community colleges in Nebraska.
- Central Community College in Grand Island, Nebraska
- Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska
- Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska
- Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska
- Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, Nebraska
- The study found that colleges who successfully developed the DMT program had a full-time, dedicated "champion" focused on the program.
- The study found that the courses developed were used at all colleges; where adaptations were made, colleges retained most aspects to ease student transfers. These courses were latticed and laddered so that students could move from certification to an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree; however, these courses were accepted only as electives by state colleges and universities.
- The study found that most instructional aids, including Tooling U (contained assessment and instructional modules which replaced textbooks), a "manufacturing island" on Second Life, and hands-on equipment, were well received by instructional staff and students and were likely to be retained.
- The study found that participant coaches helped students with enrollment, tutoring, financial aid, and other barriers to their education including personal challenges.
Implementation challenges and solutions
- The study found that direct connections to businesses were less successful; the authors theorize it may have been due to businesses wanting to protect their own training program, or concerns about liability, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or other policies.
- The study found that word-of-mouth was their most successful tool for recruiting. Program staff conducted a wide range of outreach including brochures, posters, flyers, presentations at job fairs/conferences, a website, social media posting, and discussions with college staff (e.g., HR, admissions, student services, counseling).
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors used a variety of qualitative and quantitative data sources to answer the research questions. Most data sources and data analysis procedures were described with sufficient detail and were appropriate to address the research questions. All colleges, and appropriate staff at these colleges, were included in the study. Evaluators used data analysis strategies, triangulation, and member checks to ensure the accuracy of their findings and interpretation.