Leveraging Community Colleges in Workforce

A new policy brief from the Education Commission of the States, authored by ACCT's policy analysts.

Recently, Education Commission of the States released 10 new policy briefs focused on the interaction between state- and federal-level policies pertaining to higher education. ACCT Senior Policy Analyst Colleen Campbell and Policy Analyst Ivy Love co-authored one of the series briefs, which serves as a resource for community college leaders. 

Leveraging Community Colleges in the Workforce and Innovation and Opportunity Act is a blueprint for taking a federated approach through which federal, state and local policymakers, educational institutions, and the nonprofit and private sectors come together to build a better system.

Executive Summary

The success of our nation’s economy rests within our communities. Our workforce is built on the strengths of individuals, those educated in our colleges and employed by our dynamic businesses. In order to create a thriving workforce development system – one that supports individuals’ needs and bolsters employers’ supply of skilled workers – we must create a coordinated, efficient set of policies and programs. This is possible through a federated approach, where federal, state, and local policymakers; educational institutions; and the nonprofit and private sectors come together to build a better system. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 offers multiple opportunities to align the workforce development efforts of these stakeholders through structural measures and targeted support. In this paper, we examine ways that WIOA can influence a state’s job training environment and highlight the crucial role of community colleges in this effort. We offer four key ways these institutions can be leveraged in WIOA to create a more effective and cohesive system: 

  1. State and local Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) can build sector partnerships that leverage community colleges and other education and training providers to develop career pathways that align workforce supply and demand. WIOA emphasizes the value of recognized postsecondary credentials, and the attention given to career pathways in the act provides a way for community colleges to contribute to the growth of skilled and credentialed workers in their local areas. 
  2. Community colleges designated as an Eligible Training Provider (ETP) can offer programs that qualify for WIOA support. Eligible job-seekers can defray the cost of participating in these programs using Individual Training Accounts (ITAs). Students in accredited programs may be able to combine ITAs with federal student aid, maximizing support as they gain new skills or retrain for a new field of work. 

Download the full policy brief, Leveraging Community Colleges in the Workforce and Innovation and Opportunity Act. 

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