Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of the Southeastern Economic and Education Leadership Consortium (SEELC), a project created by a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant, which provided career pathway training and supportive services to students in welding, computer-integrated machining, and advanced manufacturing in six community and state colleges across three states.
- The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using data obtained from interviews, focus groups, site visits, participation in meetings, and document review.
- The study found that, in general, most program components were designed and implemented as planned, although there was variation across the sites. The colleges struggled the most with securing Accredited Testing Facilities (ATF) certification and administering the WorkKeys assessment to students.
- This was a well-structured study that detailed the development, delivery, challenges, and facilitators for the program's five primary components. The findings aligned with the research questions and were supported by the data.
- The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in August 2020.
The Southeastern Economic and Education Leadership Consortium (SEELC)
Features of the Intervention
- Type of organization: State and community colleges
- Location/setting: Multi-site in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee
- Population served and scale: TAA-eligible individuals; Veterans; Long-term unemployed; 1,736 participants
- Industry focus: Manufacturing
- Intervention activities: Career pathways; Student support services; Technology
- Organizational partnerships: Employers; Workforce Investment Boards; American Welding Society; National Institute for Metalworking Skills
- Cost: Not included
- Fidelity: Included
The SEELC program was funded in 2013 by a Round 3 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The program was intended to serve TAA-eligible individuals, veterans, and long-term unemployed adults in six community and state colleges in three states—Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee. These consortium colleges partnered with employers and workforce investment boards to provide career pathways (created or enhanced programs embedded with credentials), student support services (coaching and assessments, such as WorkKeys, which provides a score on essential skills that employers who also use WorkKeys can match to their job openings), engagement with industries and employers (advisory board, equipment provision, collaboratives), and applied credit (articulation agreements, transfer credit, prior learning assessments). Additionally, each college planned to create an Accredited Testing Facilities (ATF) site on campus that could test and certify welders in accordance with the standards established by the American Welding Society. The study concluded in July 2017 having served 1,736 participants.
The logic model includes inputs (e.g., faculty and staff, participants, the DOL, stakeholders, workforce investment boards), activities/outputs (e.g., articulation agreements, curricula, credentials, competency assessments, job placement and retention services, a collaborative of stakeholders), short-term outcomes (e.g., increased or improved retention, academic achievement, occupational skills, soft skills, employer and industry partnerships), and long-term outcomes/impacts (e.g., increased earnings, employment, placement, and retention in jobs; employer access to a skilled workforce; and continuous communication between workforce partners and colleges).
Features of the Study
The study design used qualitative data collection methods. Data were collected across all six study sites through interviews and/or focus groups with program staff, program leadership, faculty, students, and partners; document review; and a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. Interview and focus group data were obtained during site visits and over the phone. Evaluators also attended the annual consortium meetings. The authors did not provide the number or demographic characteristics of the study participants. Data were analyzed by creating a matrix of the data gathered, searching for key words to identify themes (both common and counterfactual), and then adding contextual information from program notes, site visits, and document review. Data were also coded as positive, negative, or neutral to help identify challenges and barriers.
The authors assessed fidelity by measuring the proportion of a program component’s activities that were implemented as planned. Green was assigned if all activities were implemented as planned, yellow was assigned if more than half, but not all were implemented as planned, and red was assigned if less than half of the activities were implemented as planned.
There were six state and community colleges, across three states, that participated in the study.
- Northeast State Community College in Blountville, Tennessee
- Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Florida
- Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee
- Polk State College in Winter Haven, Florida
- Randolph Community College in Asheboro, North Carolina
- Vance-Granville Community College in Henderson, North Carolina
- The study found that, except for ATF and WorkKeys, colleges generally implemented the program as designed including creating or aligning courses to industry standards, purchasing equipment, offering hybrid courses, offering supportive services to students including coaching and job preparation, creating articulation and transfer agreements, and engaging with industry partners.
- The study found that faculty with an industry background were able to facilitate employer partnerships and that employers were key to creating/modifying courses.
- The study found that job preparation services such as mock interviews, help with resumes, and connecting students to job opportunities were successful.
- The study found that for the welding career pathway, one college implemented all program components with fidelity and the others were rated as implementing more than half of the activities with fidelity. Conversely, for the machining career pathway, four colleges implemented all activities with fidelity and one implemented over half of the activities with fidelity. However, all of the five colleges with an advanced manufacturing career pathway implemented it with fidelity.
- The study found that only one college implemented all activities related to offering hybrid courses with fidelity; the other colleges implemented more than half of the activities with fidelity. However, only two colleges integrated the WorkKeys assessment with complete fidelity, while four colleges implemented half of the related activities with fidelity.
Implementation challenges and solutions
- The study found that strict education and experience requirements, and a lengthy hiring process, caused program delays; some college also experienced staff turnover.
- The study found that colleges benefited from negotiating with the credentialing entities as a consortium, instead of individually; however, colleges still experienced challenges working with the credentialing entities, which caused some to abandon seeking the credential.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
This was a well-structured study that detailed the development, delivery, challenges, and facilitators for the program's five primary components. The findings aligned with the research questions and were supported by the data. One limitation noted by the study authors was that most of their data were provided by the consortium director and grant staff and they were unable to verify much of the information, although they triangulated data when possible. Fidelity was assessed by the study authors and not by the CLEAR team.