The Education Design Lab, a national nonprofit that designs, implements, and scales new learning models, has announced that it will partner with six colleges and post-secondary education systems to create an inaugural cohort of a new Community College Growth Engine Fund. The fund will help U.S. community colleges collaborate with local employers to meet the growing demand for short-term credentials and 21st century workforce skills. It will result in 18 employer-validated micro-pathways designed to connect low-wage and entry-level workers to in-demand jobs that pay at-or-above the median wage and put them on a path toward a degree.
The Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) has provided $500,000 for the initiative. Walmart, the DeLaski Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation also have provided support.
The need for this type of innovative fund was evident before COVID-19, but the ongoing pandemic has made it even more urgent. According to a Strada Education Network tracking poll, roughly 60 percent of Americans say they have lost hours or jobs due to the pandemic. These respondents also indicated they will need access to innovative, affordable education pathways to reenter the workforce.
“This opportunity will create better learning options for people that lead to meaningful work,” said CKF Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “The Fund will empower learners by creating dynamic pathways and new credentials that are aligned with employer demands. We’re excited to support the Education Design Lab in its efforts to accelerate innovation.”
The six members of the inaugural cohort are:
- Austin Community College District in Texas, which will up- and re-skill displaced workers as Certified Production Technicians (CPT) and Certified Medical Assistants (CMA);
- The City University of New York, which will prepare students for careers in community health and for information technology (IT) roles;
- Ivy Tech Community College, which will upskill students for roles in advanced manufacturing and IT;
- Pima Community College in Arizona, which will prepare workers for roles in robotics and construction jobs;
- Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, which will partner with technology and health care employers in the National Capital Region to create pathways to allied health, nursing, and tech careers; and
- Seattle Colleges, which will help the underserved, particularly homeless, unemployed, and formerly-incarcerated individuals, learn digital skills and entrepreneurship to transition into roles in the creative, services, and technology industries.
Each institution will receive a $100,000 implementation grant, along with extensive hands-on support from the Education Design Lab to launch programs that will serve more than 4,000 learners. The Charles Koch Foundation and the Education Design Lab are both members of the SkillUp Coalition – click here for more information about SkillUp.)
Chike Aguh, the Education Design Lab’s head of economic mobility pathways, will lead the fund.
“This work is about community colleges supercharging local workforce development and our national economy,” Aguh said. “We will equip colleges and their regional partners with new tools, networks, and capital to help workers up- and re-skill for jobs that the market needs and future demands.”