The growing skills gap between the demands of employers in high-growth fields and the skills being taught to learners at public post-secondary institutions is widening. An overlooked solution lies in local community colleges. They play a crucial role in educating diverse student populations with the technical and power skills to thrive in in-demand careers of the future.
According to the American Association of Community Colleges: 42% of community college students are the first in their families to attend college, 13% are single parents, and 12% have disabilities. While community colleges help learners from various walks of life acquire valuable degrees at a fraction of the cost of four-year universities, they need help designing curricula and career pathways that adapt to the future of work.
Developing and implementing new programs in a fast-evolving school-to-employment world is no easy feat. Entrenched incentives make it hard to change the status quo. Community college administrators and faculty need support in creating stackable micro-credentials to create more actionable career pathways for learners that lead to quality jobs.
Why Education Design Lab?
In 2020, Education Design Lab (the Lab) launched the Community College Growth Engine Fund (CCGEF) to build the capacity of community colleges to design market-driven educational pathways for learners who have been on the wrong end of the growing skills gap.
The CCGEF provides community colleges with a structured pathway design process, technical assistance, and a national learning community to position themselves as key regional talent suppliers. To date, CCGEF colleges have designed 30+ career-connected micro-pathways tied to in-demand occupations.
In expanding its efforts in partnership with Maricopa Community College District (MCCCD), the Lab will lead a two-year initiative to develop employer-validated micro-pathways in information technology (IT) and advanced manufacturing. The Lab will bring together regional employers and educators to design and pilot micro-pathways with the required technical and soft skills to fill in-demand jobs. MCCCD intends its pathways to serve low-income and un-/under-employed learners needing skills training to connect to work. By the end of year two, the partners will have:
- Designed, test, and piloted eight employer-validated micro-pathways
- Enrolled hundreds of learners, positioning students for jobs in sectors that pay a living wage
- Identified business models to sustain the micro-pathways
- Created a network of colleges, employers, and government entities to solve regional skills gaps
The Lab is unique in that it offers the institutions a structured, proven “design, pilot, scale” process to implement new learning pathways to better serve both New Majority Learners and the talent needs of local and regional economies. As the future of work and the skills to thrive in that new world continue to change rapidly, most community colleges do not have the flexibility, capacity, or expertise to pivot. This has an outsized negative effect on first-generation college students and low-income learners attending community colleges.
Collaborating with the Autodesk Foundation
As a foundation committed to supporting inclusive industry-relevant learning solutions, we are eager to welcome Education Design Lab to our Work & Prosperity portfolio. By investing in the Lab, we invest in an ecosystem partner driving systems change, while having a direct impact on learners within advanced manufacturing. This investment also serves as an opportunity to learn more about the current incentives and limitations within that system and shorten the gap between work and learning for those most in need of quality jobs and dignified wages in advanced manufacturing and digital skills.
Learn more about Education Design Lab’s learn-and-work solutions.