Describes a newly developed framework for evaluating “hard-to-measure” design, development, and delivery of workforce education partnerships and programs, to allow community colleges and employers identify and address regional workforce needs.

“Spurred by a demand to prepare more American workers for middle-class jobs in high-technology industries, funders are investing…in large-scale partnerships between community college workforce educators and employers. Despite such investments, however, few broadly usable insights have been gleaned about effective partnership and workforce program implementation…To address this problem, from 2009 to 2015, researchers from SRI International’s Education Division studied community college workforce educational implementation in five industries and geographic regions.

That work has resulted in the Workforce Education Implementation Evaluation (WEIE), a framework for evaluating hard-to-measure aspects of the design, development, and delivery of workforce education partnerships and programs. Partnership strategies between employers and community colleges permit local regions to make adjustments in their workforce education system to ensure adequate supplies of skilled workers to meet employer demand.

...[T]he WEIE framework documents…aspects of workforce programming that make for partnership sustainability and appropriate instructional programs. To illustrate WEIE’s potential…SRI…applied the framework to two contrasting cases. Each case represents a predominant approach to workforce program development in the [U.S.]: the large-scale partnership, an approach that involves close collaborations that can lead to structural changes in the college’s instructional delivery system; and traditional employer outreach, an approach that involves the college in occasional consultations with employers to identify workforce skills gaps” (p.2).

“The WEIE framework relies on the following research approaches:

  • Detailed analyses of…industry employment databases, company data, an online job advertisement dataset, and a dataset consisting of resumes of program alumni
  • Partnership analysis drawing from interviews with more than 80 college leaders, industry partners, and regional economic development representatives in the U.S. Northeast, South, Midwest, and Southwest, and in…information technology (IT), advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, engineering technology, and wind energy technology
  • Instructional data collection focusing on two high technology workforce programs offered at about 10% of American community colleges: IT support and advanced manufacturing maintenance” (p.2).
  • (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The resource illustrates the three major topics that make up the WEIE framework so that policymakers or evaluators can learn how to use it themselves. First, the resource describes the “Labor Market Context” part of the framework. It explains that this topic, “helps answer the questions: How do local labor market structure and dynamics shape workforce education partnering needs and approaches? How can program outcomes be tracked?” (p.3). The authors argue this is important because “the structure and dynamics of the regional labor market underlie what kind of workforce training is needed in a region [and] what kind of partnership opportunities are likely to evolve…The WEIE framework used analysis of traditional labor market data…to characterize the labor market context…” (p.3). Next, the resource explains the “Partnership Quality” part of the framework. This topic, “helps answer the questions: What roles can different regional institutions play to enhance workforce educators’ capacity to respond to labor market needs and economic cycles? What partnership strategies should be monitored?” (p.5). The authors believe “partnerships need to be responsive to political forces, administrative structures, and varying cultural values…The WEIE builds on ideas such as partnership capital…and social ecosystems…These concepts can help guide partnerships to bring about systemic change. To do so, the framework focuses on 1. identifying the roles different regional institutions should play in relation to each other and 2. developing practices of monitoring partnership strategies that lead to success” (p.5). Finally, the resource outlines the “Instructional Quality” part of the framework. This topic, “helps answer the question: How can the instructional design and delivery choices of workforce educators improve preparation for transferable knowledge and skills?” (p.6). The authors claim “budgets and time for workforce instructional design and delivery are tight. Accordingly, implementation tools that lead to more consistent quality of instructional approach have high value. The WEIE focuses on four instructional implementation…industry relevance, academic rigor, applied practice, and proof of performance. The WEIE provides tools for checking both the intended curriculum and the enacted curriculum” (p.6). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)