Building Skills, Remodeling the HEA

Well-designed workforce development or occupational training programs at postsecondary institutions allow individuals who earn credentials to connect their academic achievements directly with local employers in that field. Such training program ideally provide a pipeline directly to employers, or teach skills that are in demand in the regional labor market. These programs are most often found at community colleges.

Today’s students are increasingly older and juggling work, family, and school, not supported financially by their parents, and often are enrolled in training programs to build skills or change career paths. The challenges these students (in particular) have in navigating training programs are not just concerns around the periphery; as this series of papers underscores, they are at the heart of the issues both institutions and students struggle with while attempting to implement and participate in these programs.

For the past several decades, the federal government has offered a series of competitive grant-funded workforce training programs at postsecondary institutions, more recently through programs like Health Professional Opportunity Grants (HPOG) and Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants. We anticipate that policymakers will seek in the future to continue this bipartisan trend of dedicating funding to focused investments in postsecondary education institutions (especially community colleges) as providers of job training.

These training programs offer great promise: employers can recruit and build a skilled workforce, institutions can strengthen relationships and relevance to the labor market in their communities, and low-income students can learn skills that will get them a job. But have training programs been able to keep up with the changing demographic and attendance patterns of today’s students? If not, what can we learn from how are they failing to do so and, particularly, how can they better lift low-income people out of poverty?

Read the first paper in our series, No Educational Experience Should Be an Island: How Low-Income Students’ Access to and Persistence in Postsecondary Education is Restricted in the Very Programs they Need the Most.

Read the second paper in our series, Improving Connections to Student Aid: Helping Low-Income Students Benefit from National Investments in Workforce Training.

Read the third paper in our series, Better Data, Better College Workforce Programs.