Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of the Accelerated Career and Education Pathway Program (ACEPP) and the subsequent transition to American Welding Society (AWS) and National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) Credentialing for Academic Programs. The intervention, implemented by Texas State Technical College (TSTC) Waco, first developed three new short-term training tracks, then pivoted to integrate content for industry-recognized credentials into the college’s programs to provide unemployed and transitioning veterans in Waco, Texas with the skillsets needed for entry-level manufacturing positions.
- The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using data collected from conference calls and emails, phone and on-site individual and group interviews, and program data and document reviews.
- The study found that, after experiencing significant recruitment challenges, TSTC Waco re-designed their TAACCCT-funded program to embed industry-recognized credentials in existing academic programs. The resulting intervention is a robust workforce training curriculum that is expected to be leveraged for future trainings and will continue to strengthen the community by expanding its workforce and increasing opportunities for students.
- Data collection methods and analysis appropriately address the research questions, and findings are supported by the data. However, the authors note potential limitations due to the possibility of partial and biased findings, selection bias, the respondent order effect, researcher extrapolation, and human error.
- The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in May 2020.
The Accelerated Career and Education Pathway Program (ACEPP)
Features of the Intervention
- Type of organization: Community college
- Location/setting: Multi-site in Texas
- Population served and scale: Adults; Veterans or military; Unemployed; 480 participants
- Industry focus: Construction; Manufacturing
- Intervention activities: Accelerated learning; Career pathways; Technology
- Organizational partnerships: Educational centers; Workforce agencies; Local employers
- Cost: Not included
- Fidelity: Not included
In 2014, Texas State Technical College Waco (TSTC Waco) received a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant to implement the Accelerated Career and Education Pathway Program (ACEPP). The ACEPP was originally designed to provide unemployed and transitioning veterans in Waco, Texas with the skillsets needed to obtain entry-level manufacturing jobs. TSTC Waco implemented this intervention in two phases. During the first phase, TSTC developed three short-term training tracks, each lasting 16 weeks, that prepared individuals to test for industry-recognized credentials while covering some of the exam costs. The tracks were 1) Welding with the American Welding Society (AWS), 2) Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), and 3) Industrial Maintenance. To support student learning, the courses included online learning, lab-based, and hands-on instruction. ACEPP offered stacked credentials where students could leave the program after they completed individual modules, but then later receive more advanced credentials.
However, due to difficulties recruiting participants that met the program’s standards, the program was redesigned in 2017, leading to the second phase of implementation, during which TSTC Waco chose to embed industry-recognized credentials in already existing academic programs at multiple TSTC campuses. These preexisting programs were Welding Technology, Precision Machining Technology, and Industrial Maintenance. After AWS and NIMS Credentialing was successfully integrated, a total of 480 students received training that prepared them to ultimately attain 540 credentials. To implement the intervention, TSTC partnered with Fort Hood Educational Center, Workforce Solutions-Heart of Texas, and local employers.
Features of the Study
The implementation evaluation focused on the following themes: progress toward achieving program outcomes and milestones; program accelerators, barriers, and contextual factors; how strategies or activities not successfully implemented could be adapted or modified; and context for sustainability. The evaluation team used data from implementation calls and communication; on-site and phone interviews with key stakeholders including TSTC leadership and faculty, ACEPP staff and instructors, partners, and participants; annual site visits; and document reviews of quarterly reports to USDOL, internal reports, promotional/marketing materials, and descriptive project materials (e.g., organizational chart, job description, strategic plan). Study participants were included because of their involvement with the intervention. The group of student participants were selected from all three program areas and varied in age, gender, workforce experience, and method of payment (e.g. scholarship, self-pay) for the program. No further details regarding participant recruitment, demographics, or compensation are provided.
The evaluation team analyzed the data by documenting and synthesizing themes and details extracted from the stakeholder calls and interviews using a general inductive thematic approach. On-site individual and small group interviews were conducted during annual site visits using customized interview facilitation guides developed for each visit. Interviews were semi-structured and aligned with the principles of applied thematic research. To increase consistency, the project lead was present for all site visits and participated in calls, document reviews, and report writing. An evaluation team member also took detailed notes during each site visit. To bolster the accuracy and credibility of findings, the evaluation team relied on triangulation and collaborative inquiry. They compared findings based on different data sources to identify gaps and lack of evidence and presented findings to TSTC Waco stakeholders for their input.
- Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas
- Texas State Technical College in Red Oak, Texas
- Texas State Technical College in Hutto, Texas
- Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County, Texas
- Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, Texas
- Texas State Technical College in Marshall, Texas
- The study found that TSTC Waco had to pivot significantly from its original vision in March 2017 due to low student recruitment. The ACEPP shifted from short-term workforce trainings with industry-recognized credentials to focus on embedding industry-recognized credentials in already existing academic programs at multiple TSTC campuses.
- The study found that the integration of the new curriculum was complemented by the acquisition of new materials, supplies, and equipment, as well as new and refurbished labs.
- The study found that several positive impacts were expected to last beyond the grant, including American Welding Society (AWS) Accredited Testing Facility (ATF) Accreditation, internal TSTC collaboration, and stronger communities as a result of a more robust workforce.
Implementation challenges and solutions
- The study found that low student recruitment was a significant challenge for the ACEPP. As Waco’s economy improved and more jobs became available, low regional unemployment meant that finding individuals who were qualified for and interested in ACEPP training became one of the greatest challenges facing the initiative. ACEPP attempted to address this challenge through focused recruitment efforts (e.g., billboards, job fairs, veterans’ events, brochures) and hiring a Recruitment Specialist.
- The study found that, despite these challenges, the intervention successfully transitioned to a new version of the program and navigated a major reorganization of TSTC campuses.
- The study found that TSTC leadership, faculty, and staff commitment to the intervention led to the development of a robust workforce training curriculum that can be leveraged in the future, as well as stronger internal relationships across TSTC.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Data collection methods and analysis appropriately addressed the research questions, and findings were supported by the data. However, the authors noted potential limitations due to the possibility of partial and biased findings. They explained that, while qualitative methods offer good insights, they are by nature partial and may contain bias. To address this, the evaluation team triangulated results from multiple sources. The authors also highlighted selection bias, which they attempted to address by setting selection criteria for their sample of student participants, as well as the respondent order effect, which was offset by ensuring they captured a “valid and representative spectrum of participant experiences.” Finally, the authors noted the possibility of researcher extrapolation and human error, since the evaluation team relied on grant staff to collect and manage data for the implementation evaluation.