July 26, 2008
Abstract: the Rise of Noncredit Workforce Education
By Van Noy, Michelle Jacobs, James; Korey, Suzanne; Bailey, Thomas R; Hughes, Katherine L
Postsecondary noncredit education has become increasingly common in recent years and, at many community colleges, noncredit education enrolls more students than do credit programs. Courses connected with workforce instruction and contract training account for much of this growth, and they are noted for their important role in responding flexibly to shifting workforce demands. Still, the growth in community college noncredit workforce education raises questions about whether the colleges are keeping pace with student and industry needs, using resources efficiently, and providing access to all students; the answers may challenge current state policies and college practices. To explore these issues, the Community College Research Center's one-year study, conducted in collaboration with the National Council for Workforce Education and the National Council for Continuing Education and Training, focused on noncredit workforce instruction and contract training in community colleges. Specifically, the study examined the following issues:
(1) the extent to which noncredit workforce education and state policies play a role in workforce development, provide disadvantaged groups with access to higher education, and generate revenue for the college;
(2) the way that colleges organize their noncredit workforce education programs to balance the tradeoffs between the desired flexibility of noncredit education and the integration of noncredit education with credit programs; and
(3) the extent to which noncredit workforce education provides students with recorded outcomes, such as transcripts or industry certifications, and the extent to which outcomes data are available.
Based on a review of policies in all 50 states and case studies of 20 community colleges, the study made several conclusions and specific suggestions for change.
A larger version of this abstract appeared in the Community College Journal, vol. April/May 2008. pp. 54-59. The project was funded by the Sloan Foundation and was carried out by the Community College Research Center in collaboration with the National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE) and the National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET).
Copyright National Council for Continuing Education & Training Spring 2008
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