Describes the Des Moines Area Community College Workforce Training Academy Connect program, including program goals, the population served, and training and support services offered, with a specific focus on how it integrates the core elements of career pathways.

“A substantial gap exists between the skills of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high-growth industries, including healthcare, technology and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while well-paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low-wage work with little opportunity for advancement. Career pathways programs aim to address the economy’s vital need for skilled workers while offering low wage workers the opportunity to obtain education and training and advance into the middle class.

To achieve their goals, career pathways programs offer low-skilled adults well-articulated training and employment steps targeted to locally in-demand jobs combined with promising instructional approaches and supportive services. Policy makers and practitioners show…interest in career pathways programs, in part because such programs provide guidance for developing improved education and training approaches for low-skilled individuals. Along these lines, the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study is using an experimental design to assess the effectiveness of nine career pathways programs across the country….

This profile is an overview of the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Workforce Training Academy Connect (WTA Connect) program. Designed and operated by DMACC in Des Moines, Iowa, WTA Connect targets students who otherwise would not be eligible to enroll in vocational training certificate courses because of their low skill levels.

The program intends to accelerate entry into vocational training by enabling students to pursue basic skills and occupational training simultaneously. Through support services and advising, WTA Connect aims to equip participants for success in their chosen course of study.

This profile first describes the career pathways framework used in the PACE evaluation, which provides a common approach for describing and assessing career pathways programs, and then discusses DMACC’s WTA Connect model and how it fits within this framework” (p.1-2).

The profile is part of a series of resources about PACE, including profiles of the other involved programs, reports on implementation findings, and an impact report.

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: PACE Career Pathways Program Profile: Des Moines Area Community College Workforce Training Academy Connect Program

Major Findings & Recommendations

The resource’s main findings are details about the DMACC WTA Connect program. First, the profile summarizes the career pathways framework on which the WTA Connect program is based. The authors explain that “[t]he career pathways approach presupposes that postsecondary education and training should be organized as a series of manageable steps leading to successively better credentials and employment opportunities in growing occupations. Each step is designed to prepare participants for the next level of employment and education and also provide a credential with labor market value. To effectively engage, retain, and facilitate learning, programs integrate four core elements: (1) comprehensive assessment, (2) promising approaches to basic and occupational skills, (3) academic and nonacademic supports, and (4) strategies for connecting participants to employers” (p.2). Next, the profile outlines the ways in which the WTA Connect program integrates each of these four core elements. For example, it provides details about the program’s use of ACT WorkKeys, CASAS, and COMPASS assessments; promising training approaches, like career planning and digital literacy labs; vocational training; and advising, financial assistance and benefits screening. The profile summarizes the overall program as follows: “DMACC developed WTA Connect to increase access to vocational training certificate courses for students with a low basic skills levels (6th to 8th grade). To support low-skilled students, WTA Connect packages the vocational training with additional supports and instruction including a career planning session, a self-discovery and goal setting course, basic skills remediation in math and reading, and advising services from achievement coaches. The program is designed to improve students’ academic skills and psychosocial skills so that they are prepared to succeed in vocational training courses typically offered only to students at a 9th grade skill level or above” (p.10). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)