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Developing Career-Based Training

Stuart Andreason,
© 2016
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
1000 Peachtree Street N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30309-4470
The facts presented in the study and the observations and viewpoints expressed are the sole responsibility of the
authors. They do not necessarily represent positions of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Cover design by Peter Hamilton and Odie Swanegan
Ebook designed by Peter Hamilton

Table of Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Stuart Andreason
1–Setting a New Standard in the 21st Century:
Career Technical Education and Programs of Study ...................................................................... 5
Kate Blosveren Kreamer and Andrea Zimmermann
2–Data-Driven Improvement in Career Technical Education ...................................................... 12
John Foster and Patricia Kelley

3–Implementing Competency-Based Education: Lessons from Raritan Valley Community
College’s Workforce Development Project .................................................................................. 18
Michelle Van Noy, Michael Metzgar, and Shaunna Jagneaux
4–Employers’ Investment in Career Pathways Improves Retention and Enhances Employee
Engagement in Cincinnati, Ohio ................................................................................................... 23
Sharron M. DiMario, Joel A. Elvery, and Christopher Spence

5–Investing in Frontline Health Care Workers:
Cases from Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina .......................................................... 30
Shannon McKay and Jennifer Giovannitti
6–Transforming Lives for People with Criminal Records
through Demand Skill Training and Job Placement ..................................................................... 40
Victor Dickson and Harry Alston Jr.
7–Case Study: Miami Dade College’s Hospitality Institute— Training and Job Placing for the
Underprivileged ............................................................................................................................ 47
Rolando Montoya and Shelly Fano

Stuart Andreason
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

In an increasingly complex and rapidly changing global economy, Americans place a great premium
on skills and education among workers. Recent work has suggested that advances in technology have
fundamentally shifted the demand for labor towards workers who have significant skill (Goldin and Katz
2008; Autor, Levy, and Murnane 2003). The returns to education are very high and potentially increasing,
yet it is clear that the vast majority of workers will not need to reach the highest levels of education—a
bachelor’s degree or above—to succeed in the labor market today. In fact, many projections suggest that
about 70 percent of all jobs will not require this credential. But postsecondary training is ever more
important, as about half of all jobs will require some education—but not a four year college degree—
beyond high school (Symonds, Schwartz, and Ferguson 2011). Many of these jobs will require a technical
certification, license, associate’s degree, or other credential earned beyond high school.
In fact many people who hold a postsecondary credential or certification will earn more than those
who hold a bachelor’s degree (Carnevale, Smith, and Strohl 2010). These middle-skilled, postsecondarytraining-required positions are likely to be some of the fastest growing positions in the labor market
(Holzer et al. 2011; Council of Economic Advisers 2009). These positions occur in many different
industries, touching all parts of the economy. Many are service positions; many are administrative or
executive support positions; many are in goods-producing positions (Wardrip et al. 2015).
Yet training for and focus on these positions can be very hard to create. A skilled technician in one
city may need completely different skills than a technician in the same position in another city because of
the needs of local industry. These different requirements are addressed through the development of
localized training programs that are closely aligned with the needs of employers. The companion to this
book, Models for Labor Market Intermediaries, shows how many organizations in different contexts
made those connections.
This book focuses on a number of the different arenas that have a greater need for technical and
career-based training. At the secondary level, the book contains examples of efforts and frameworks for
expanding career and technical education. One chapter discusses the potential for competency-based
education rather than the traditional “credit hours” model. The book looks at examples of companies
working directly with their frontline workers to improve skills. Finally, it has several examples of using
some of the general principles of industry-led training programs to serve hard-to-employ populations—
ex-offenders and homeless residents and new immigrants.
Great potential exists for workers and great need for employers to build out the skills of many middleskilled positions in the workforce today. A first start is developing more and better career-based training.
This book highlights how different entities have done that.

In chapter 1, Blosveren Kreamer and Zimmermann introduce new efforts to systematize and
modernize new programs in career and technical education (CTE) using the National Career Clusters
Framework. They note the history of CTE and its transformation from “vocational education” to “career
and technical education.” The 2006 reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, the federal legislation that
funds the CTE system in the country, introduced a new concept—programs of study—that helped to

develop stronger links between industry and secondary and postsecondary education. The National Career
Clusters Framework developed core “careers” that include clear paths between different occupations in
similar work areas.
In chapter 2, Foster and Kelley continue the discussion of developing frameworks for CTE through
their analysis of CTE technical skills assessments—which are assessments developed by CTE subject
matter experts that help to determine the level of expertise that program participants gain during their
education. While these type of assessments have existed for quite some time, the authors argue for a
stronger use of the information and data that come from technical skills assessments. They note that in the
past the outcomes of assessments did not get communicated to CTE educators, who might be able to use
the information for program improvement. They note the successes and improvements of CTE assessment
usage in California and Minnesota, where technical skills assessments were used to develop better
articulation between secondary and postsecondary technical education programs.
In chapter 3, Van Noy, Metzgar, and Jagneaux discuss competency-based education (CBE) and how
Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey implemented the model in several of its workforce
development programs. Competency-based education eschews the traditional course hour model for a
model that has teaching for programs that align with local industries, determine the skills and
competencies needed for success in the workplace, and develop assessments that allow students to show
mastery of the work. The CBE model allows students to progress and learn at their own pace. As students
show mastery of the skills needed to succeed, they can move on to earn the credentials that will help them
to access work. Analysis of the early results of the CBE programs at Raritan Valley Community College
suggest that employment outcomes for students are better, program completion rates are higher, and
employers report satisfaction.
In chapter 4, DiMario, Elvery, and Spence explore the potential for employer and industry sector
investment in career pathways. They study Partners for a Competitive Workforce in the Cincinnati
Metropolitan Area, covering the city and suburbs in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The program relies
heavily on employers in similar lines of work to steer the programing and content of training programs. In
the case study, they started with the health care industry. The organization then worked with community
colleges, local workforce investment boards, and community-based organizations to develop and
implement the programs that employers request. The programs are aligned to employer needs and have
shown early success—both for students and the workforce development system. The organizations
involved have been able to develop a shared data system that helps to manage where jobseekers are
getting services and their outcomes, creating opportunities for more seamless service.
McKay and Giovannitti discuss frontline health care worker education programs in chapter 5. They
focus on health care organizations that developed training programs for their current frontline workers—
ranging from small health care centers with about 50 employees to very large university health-care-based
systems of more than 8,000 employees. The health care organizations reported being interested in these
investments to improve organizational efficiency and client care. Many of the challenges in skill
upgrading for frontline workers were similar but approached in different ways—including the partners
involved and the funding strategies for new training. Overall, the health care organizations that invested
in their frontline workers found they had greater staff retention, and workers reported greater job
satisfaction. Some of these outcomes were likely due to increased wages and greater opportunities to
advance at the organizations.
In chapter 6, Dickson and Alston discuss linking sector-based training strategies with helping hard-toemploy workers. They discuss efforts at the Safer Foundation to improve both the labor market outcomes
and post-release success in society of ex-offenders through skill-based training and other supports. The
organization saw employment as a critical component of efforts to reduce recidivism and returns to jail
among ex-offenders and developed training programs for the manufacturing industry in Chicago. The
programs included several manufacturing industry credentials. Stakeholders are committed to the program


and believe that the comprehensive strategy helps to ensure success. Applying the ideas of in-demand
skill training to special populations takes careful consideration to ensure the programs match clients’
needs and life situations.
Similarly, Montoya and Fano discuss the Hospitality Institute at Miami Dade College in Miami,
Florida, in chapter 7. The Hospitality Institute is an initiative of Miami Dade College, the largest
postsecondary institution in the country, which focuses on training new immigrants and homeless
residents in the Miami area for jobs in the hospitality industry. As a tourism and hospitality hub, South
Florida has a great concentration of jobs in the food service, accommodation, and entertainment industries
at the entry level. Many of these jobs offer great opportunities for re-entry or first-time entry into the
labor force. The program is short and provides intensive training and certification in areas like food
preparation and health and safety in food service. The program is well fit to the population as it helps get
unemployed and marginally attached to the labor force homeless residents and new immigrants into the
workforce and experience in the workplace. From these positions they can find future opportunities and
pursue additional training.

The cases in this book provide examples of ways to focus on specialized training that can lead to
careers. Some of the cases focus on aligning education systems, career and technical education programs,
or postsecondary education with industry and business—and places that are actively looking for new
work. Some chapters provide broad overviews of new initiatives, with examples of how they play out in
local areas. Others go deeply into the conditions in local communities and explore a local response in the
context of state-of-the-art practice. What the whole of this work shows is that no one right way exists to
develop career-based training. Each community and each jobseeker faces unique challenges. Still, some
common threads often run through these challenges. Employer-funded-training partnerships like the
Partnership for a Competitive Workforce have been replicated across the country, but no one is exactly
the same. Some have different training focuses in different industries; others have different organizational
The broad model and practice have been adapted to local conditions. This book is meant to provide
opportunities for readers to explore new approaches to developing training programs and learn about
ways that other communities and organizations have approached similar challenges or training programs.
Developing career-based training can provide significant opportunities for jobseekers, create new value
for companies, and create benefits for society through expanded human capital and employment. I hope
that this book adds to your understanding of and strategy towards developing career-based training.

Autor, David, Frank Levy, and Richard J. Murnane. 2003. “The Skill Content of Recent Technological
Change: An Empirical Exploration.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 118 (4): 1279–1333.
Carnevale, Anthony P., Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl. 2010. “Help Wanted: Projections of Job and
Educational Requirements through 2018.” Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Center on
Education and the Workforce.
Council of Economic Advisers. 2009. “Preparing the Workers of Today for the Jobs of Tomorrow.”
Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, Council of Economic Advisers.
Goldin, Claudia, and Lawrence F. Katz. 2008. The Race between Education and Technology. Belknap
Holzer, Harry J., Julia I. Lane, David B. Rosenblum, and Fredrik Andersson. 2011. Where Are All the
Good Jobs Going?: What National and Local Job Quality and Dynamics Mean for U.S. Workers.
Russell Sage Foundation.


Symonds, William C., Robert B. Schwartz, and Ronald F. Ferguson. 2011. “Pathways to Prosperity:
Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.” Boston: Pathways to
Prosperity Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Wardrip, Keith, Kyle Fee, Lisa Nelson, and Stuart T. Andreason. 2015. “Identifying Opportunity
Occupations in the Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Areas.” Special Report of the Federal
Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta.


Setting a New Standard in the 21st Century:
Career Technical Education and Programs of
Kate Blosveren Kreamer
National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium
Andrea Zimmermann
National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium
Career technical education (CTE) has a long history of serving as a bridge between education and
workforce development, directly linking K–12, postsecondary, and workforce and economic development
policies and practices. In the past decade in particular, CTE has aimed to transform itself to reflect the
growing complexity of the 21st-century economy and the increase in knowledge and skills demanded by
employers. Once known as “vocational education,” CTE historically focused primarily on providing
training to secondary students in specific trades, but that model is no longer sufficient. CTE is committed
to a new model—undergirded by the program-of-study framework1—that embraces seamless alignment
among secondary and postsecondary systems, strong and sustained business and industry partnerships,
and rigorous standards, such as the Common Career Technical Core.

The transition from “vocational education” to “career technical education” is more than just a name
change. It has been an intentional shift from education focused on fairly narrow job preparation to a
program model that blends academic knowledge and technical skills to prepare students for the careers of
their choice.
A number of factors have driven these changes. The job market has changed dramatically, with most
jobs now requiring education and training beyond high school. In 1973, more than 70 percent of jobs
required a high school diploma or less. By 2020, it is estimated that about 65 percent of jobs will require
more than a high school diploma (Carnevale, Smith, and Strohl 2013). If technical education is going to
prepare students for the careers of their choice, it needs to be aligned with the realities of career
requirements, which now typically include some form of postsecondary education. Often, that required
postsecondary education is a shorter, career-focused training program rather than traditional college and
university models of education.
The link between K–12 education and postsecondary training in CTE is strong. Seventy-five percent
of all high school students who take three or more CTE courses enroll in postsecondary education within
two years of graduation (U.S. Department of Education 2013).
At a more fundamental level, CTE has needed to evolve to ensure its survival. Vocational education
has historically been viewed as a less rigorous pathway into which low-income and minority students
were counseled or “tracked” (Oakes et al. 1992). This was a view that even many teachers held. In 1992,
55 percent of vocational teachers cited the placement of “problem” students (academic or socioemotional) into their classes as an issue, and another 54 percent said the status of vocational education in
their schools was a problem.


The negative perception of traditional vocational education contributed to declining student
participation over the past two decades. Between 1990 and 2009, the average number of CTE credits
earned by high school seniors dropped from 4.2 to 3.6. This drop is attributable in part to an increase in
academic requirements by states and districts, but it can also be partly credited to a drop in participation
in “nonoccupational” courses such as home economics or industrial arts, with an increase in graduates
completing more CTE-focused courses in areas like health science and communications (NCES 2013).
While there is mixed evidence that tracking by abilities can be beneficial to students, there is
increased support for an education system that provides multiple—but equally rigorous—pathways that
align to students’ interests rather than to their perceived abilities (Symonds, Schwartz, and Ferguson
2011). Along those lines, a recent survey of CTE students found that 63 percent say they are taking CTE
courses to “prepare for life after high school,” which includes college and careers (ACTE 2013).

Two major national efforts that have helped accelerate and give shape to the recent shift from
vocational education to CTE are the National Career Clusters® Framework and the 2006 reauthorization
of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). Perkins introduced programs of
study and encouraged more integration with academics.
Educators, business and industry, and policymakers first developed the National Career Clusters
Framework in the 1990s. This framework aimed to transform CTE from occupational training at the
secondary or postsecondary level into programs preparing students for a broader range of careers within
their industry of choice. Using 16 career clusters, the framework identifies knowledge and skills
statements that provide learners with foundational, industry-specific knowledge that is often transferable
across careers, as well as more specialized knowledge and skills aligned with career pathways, which are
still broader than any single job. (See table 1.1 for a list of the 16 career clusters.)
Table 1.1 The 16 Career Clusters
Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources
Architecture & Construction
Arts, A/V Technology, & Communications
Business Management & Administration
Education & Training
Government & Public Administration
Health Science
Hospitality & Tourism
Human Services
Information Technology
Law, Public Safety, Corrections, & Security
Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics
Transportation, Distribution, & Logistics
SOURCE: National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium
The Career Clusters have been updated and revalidated multiple times, most recently in 2012 in a
process that engaged more than 640 subject matter experts, including classroom educators and faculty,
employers, industry association representatives, and state and local policymakers. The validation
committees reviewed requirements for industry-based certifications, industry association standards, job


descriptions and course-level standards. The validation process included two opportunities for public
comment and review, with another 1,800 stakeholders engaged, providing a total of 40,000 ratings and
nearly 800 comments.
To date, nearly every state in the nation uses the National Career Clusters Framework, or an adapted
version, to organize CTE programs. In most cases, states are using this framework, along with state or
locally developed expectations, as the basis for specific courses and curricula (NASDCTEC 2013). This
common foundation allows for comparability in terms of types of programs offered across states, but the
programs have more limited comparability in the standards undergirding them.
The next significant milestone was the 2006 reauthorization of Perkins, which introduced the concept
of program of study. Every educational institution that receives Perkins funding is required to offer at
least one “program of study”—a non-duplicative sequence of academic and technical courses that
includes both secondary- and postsecondary-level content—as well as opportunities for high school
students to earn industry-based credentials, certificates, or postsecondary degrees (Carl D. Perkins Career
and Technical Education Act of 2006). With multiple entry and exit points for students, programs of
study provide a model that works at the secondary, postsecondary, and even workforce-development level
to offer a more coordinated and comprehensive education and training experience.
This model is playing out in a number of ways. States such as Tennessee and Nevada are approving
only CTE courses that fit within a multi-course sequence that will be articulated for credit at the states’
postsecondary institutions. Minnesota funds only CTE programs that are jointly developed by consortia of
secondary and postsecondary partners to provide a seamless transition of courses and experiences for
students. Montana, through its statewide programs of study initiative—Big Sky Pathways—is convening
secondary and postsecondary educators to compare their program standards to eliminate redundancies and
close gaps in the expectations to facilitate a student’s smooth transition across a program of study and
level of education. While these efforts are still relatively new, and though they have limited outcome data,
these models largely represent a new way of doing business around CTE.
Perkins also includes several provisions that aim to better connect CTE and academic teaching and
learning. One provision directs the state to support programs that “include coherent and rigorous content
aligned with challenging academic standards that have been adopted by the state.” Another promotes
programs that “integrate rigorous and challenging academic and career and technical instruction” (Perkins
Act 2006). According to recent surveys, 60 percent of CTE educators report integrating academics into
their classes (Kantrov 2014) and 45 percent of students say their CTE courses provide them with “realworld examples that help in their academic classes” (ACTE 2013).

The change from vocational education to CTE is producing results. CTE programs have proven
effective in improving student achievement, engagement, and graduation rates. High school students who
take three or more CTE credits, known as CTE concentrators, test significantly better than their peers on
state assessments in reading and math (USDOE 2011). Eight-seven percent of states report that these
same students graduate at a much higher rate than the general student population, with differences as
great as 20 percentage points or more in Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New
Mexico (USDOE 2014). CTE is also being used as a tool for dropout prevention. High-risk students are
eight to 10 times less likely than their non-CTE classmates to drop out of school in 11th or 12th grade
(Kulik 1998), which one study estimates as a lifetime gain of $168 billion to the U.S. economy
(Kotamraju 2011).
This success follows students into postsecondary education and careers, due in part to the “built-in
next step” of postsecondary education within a program of study (Castellano et al. 2014). Early
postsecondary credit, such as dual enrollment courses, is a key feature of CTE programs of study. One
study found that CTE students in Florida were 8.6 percent more likely than comparison students to enroll


in the state’s university system, persist in college, and have a GPA 0.26 points higher (Karp et al. 2007).
A longitudinal field study of CTE programs of study in three urban districts found that many of the
participating students not only persisted into college but also continued their education in the same
program area, thus reaping the benefits of beginning that preparation in high school (Castellano et al.
A related finding is that postsecondary students completing a program within a CTE field of study—
rather than an academic field of study—are also more likely to be employed within five years. At the
associate’s degree level, for example, 86 percent of those who completed the degree in a CTE field of
study were employed five years later, compared to 79 percent of those completing a degree in an
academic field (NCES 2009). A rigorous national evaluation of career academies, which tracked the labor
market and postsecondary outcomes of graduates from nine urban high schools eight years after
graduation, found that participants earned an average of 11 percent more than their peers (about
$2,100/year) eight years after graduation (Kemple 2008).
The positive impacts at the secondary and postsecondary levels are keeping students in school and
putting them on the path to a well-paying career in their field of choice.

In the United States, the CTE enterprise is incredibly diverse, which is both an asset and a challenge
when we attempt to compare, scale, or replicate programs. CTE is delivered through about 1,400 high
schools, 1,200 regional technical centers, and 1,700 two-year colleges. Roughly 7.5 million students are
enrolled in CTE at the secondary level (about half of all high school students), and another 4.4 million at
the postsecondary level (U.S. Department of Education 2014). The CTE system offers scale to technical
education through a myriad of settings and learning environments.
CTE programs also rely on a variety of expectations and standards—state-required standards, locally
developed standards, industry-endorsed standards, and so forth—making CTE programs differ from
community to community and across areas of study. Comparability is not always an easy feat.
To build on and continue to accelerate the transformation happening in the field, the state CTE
directors from all 50 states and U.S. territories came together in 2010 to release a new vision to guide
CTE through the 21st century.
“Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for CTE,” the resulting document, which was signed and
endorsed by every state CTE director, offers five principles. CTE

Is critical to ensuring that the United States leads in global competitiveness.
Actively partners with employers to design and provide high-quality, dynamic programs.
Prepares students to succeed in further education and careers.
Is delivered through comprehensive programs of study aligned to the National Career Clusters
Ensures a results-driven system that demonstrates a positive return on investment. (NASDCTEC

One early outcome of this vision was the development of common CTE standards. In 2012, 42 states,
the District of Columbia, and Palau collectively released a set of new standards for CTE, known as the
Common Career Technical Core (CCTC). The states committed to being directly engaged in the
development and validation of the new standards, but not directly held to the guidelines. The standards
have two major components: 12 cross-cutting and cross-curricular career-ready practices and content
standards for each of the 16 career clusters and their corresponding 79 career pathways.


More than 3,500 representatives from K–12, postsecondary, and business and industry were involved.
More than 320 education and industry representatives served on writing teams, and another 3,200
individuals provided feedback through an online validation survey.
What makes the CCTC standards unique is they identify what students should know and be able to do
at the end of a program of study, after completing a sequence of courses aligned with challenging
academic and CTE content that spans both secondary and postsecondary settings. Comparatively, nearly
every state that has CTE standards has course- or program-level standards, which typically are much more
occupationally focused (NASDCTEC 2013). It is important to note that the CCTC standards are not
necessarily intended to replace existing state standards, but rather to ensure that all students who
participate in CTE programs of study leave with a common set of knowledge and skills. Given the wide
range of diversity within the CTE enterprise, the CCTC standards serve as a set of anchor standards to
help benchmark and raise the bar on existing state standards and programs of study and bring more
consistency to the field.
The impact of the CCTC on the broader education, training, and workforce systems has the potential
to be far-reaching and significant. Competency-based education is increasingly an area of focus, even
beyond CTE. However, implementation is still in the early phases and happening in a variety of ways. At
this time, only a handful of states have formally adopted the CCTC standards, including West Virginia
and California—and Guam—in terms of the 12 career-ready practices. New Mexico is using the CCTC in
an ongoing process to review existing courses to see whether they are rigorous and relevant enough to be
part of a state-recommended CTE pathway. New Mexico also has commissioned an analysis of the
alignment between the state’s secondary and postsecondary programs to see how they are meeting
workforce needs, and the CCTC is part of the framework of the analysis.

Programs of study, the CCTC, and the broader vision for CTE all have a direct impact on the United
States’ ability to build and sustain a skilled workforce. Baked into the foundation of these initiatives is the
goal of providing individuals a broad range of skills within and across career fields to increase their
adaptability and give them more opportunities in the workforce.

Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). 2013. CTE Works! 2013 Results from a
National Survey.Alexandria, VA: Association for Career and Technical Education.
Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006, Public Law 109-270: (20
U.S.C. 2301 et seq.), Section 122(c)(1)(A).
Carnevale, Anthony P.; Nicole Smith; and Jeff Strohl. 2013. Recovery: Job Growth and Education
Requirements through 2020. Washington, DC: Georgetown University.
Castellano, M.; K.E. Sundell; L.T. Overman; G.B. Richardson; & J.R. Stone. 2014. Rigorous Tests of
Student Outcomes in CTE Programs of Study: Final Report. Louisville, KY: National Research
Center for Career and Technical Education. Retrieved from
Kantrov, Ilene. 2014. Opportunities and Challenges in Secondary Career and Technical Education.
Waltham, MA: Education Development Center, Inc.


Karp, Melinda Mechur; Juan Carlos Calcagno; Katherine L. Hughes; Dong Wook Jeong; and Thomas R.
Bailey. 2007. The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of
Student Outcomes in Two States. New York, NY: Community College Research Center, Teachers
College, Columbia University.
Kemple, James. 2008. Career Academies: Long-Term Impacts on Labor Market Outcomes, Educational
Attainment, and Transitions into Adulthood. New York, NY: MDRC.
Kotamraju, Pradeep. 2011. “Measuring the Return on Investment for CTE.” Techniques: 28–31.
Kulik, James A. 1998. “Curricular Tracks and High School Vocational Studies” In Background Papers
from 1994 National Assessment of Vocational Education. Adam Gamoran, ed. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Education.
National Association for State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEC). 2010.
“Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for CTE.” Silver Spring, MD: National Association for
State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. (accessed on April 22, 2014)
___. 2013. The State of Career Technical Education: An Analysis of State CTE Standards. Silver Spring,
MD: National Association for State Directors of Career Technical Education
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). 2009. Number of 2003–04 Beginning Postsecondary
Students Who Were Not Enrolled After 6 Years and Percentage Distribution of Their Labor Force
Status, by Field of Study When Last Enrolled, Completion Status, and Highest Credential Attained.
Career/Technical Education (CTE) Statistics. Table B03. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Education. (accessed April 16, 2014)
___. 2013. Data Point: Trends in CTE Coursetaking. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Oakes, Jeannie, Molly Selvin, Lynn A. Karoly, and Gretchen Gulton. 1992. Educational Matchmaking:
Academic and Vocational Tracking in Comprehensive Schools. Berkeley, CA: National Center for
Research in Vocational Education, University of California, Berkeley.
Symonds, William C., Robert B. Schwartz, and Ronald F. Ferguson. 2011. “Pathways to Prosperity:
Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.” Boston: Pathways to
Prosperity Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), 2011. FY 2010 Annual Performance Report. Washington, DC:
U.S. Department of Education.
___, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service.
2013. National Assessment of Career and Technical Education: Interim Report. Washington, DC:
U.S. Department of Education.
___, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. 2014. Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical
Education Act of 2006, Report to Congress on State Performance, Program Year 2010–
11. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

The concept for “program of study” was formally introduced into law through the reauthorization of
the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 [Public Law 109–270: (20 U.S.C. 2301
et seq.), Section 122(c)(1)(A)]. To help states and local recipients meet these new requirements, the U.S.


Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education created the CTE programsof-study framework (, which comprises 10
components that should make up a rigorous program of study. States and local recipients are not required
to use all 10 components during adoption, and are encouraged to consider their relative needs and
priorities while implementing these elements into their own programs. The 10 components are legislation
and policies; partnerships; professional development; accountability and evaluation systems; college and
career readiness standards; course sequences; credit transfer agreements; guidance counseling and
academic advisement; teaching and learning strategies; and technical skills assessments.


Data-Driven Improvement in Career
John Foster, PhD
National Occupational Competency Testing Institute
Patricia Kelley, PhD
National Occupational Competency Testing Institute

The American education system lacks adequate focus on the importance of technical skill
development. Compared to many of the other nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), the United States has an underdeveloped career and technical training system
(Hoffman 2011). Many Americans view the skilled technical occupations training as a pathway for those
who could not acquire a college degree. In Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity report, the authors state,
“Most advanced nations place far more emphasis on vocational education than we [in the United States]
do” (Symonds, Schwartz, and Ferguson 2011, p. 23). This view clearly needs to change because current
publicly funded career and technical education (CTE) programs can provide reasonable alternatives (such
as a good living wage) to traditional secondary and postsecondary education. The programs also provide
applied, real-world methods of teaching academic skills such as math, science, and literacy that can help
students succeed in postsecondary academic environments (Barton and Coley 2011; Holzer, Linn, and
Monthey 2013).
This article discusses some transformative strategies for improving CTE—strategies that, when
employed, improve instruction, improve curriculum, individualize instruction, and help align the
instruction being delivered to the needs of the workforce.
CTE programs provide technical training for skills in occupations such as auto mechanics, nursing,
welding, child care, carpentry, and accounting, among many other professions. In fact, many students
who concentrate are not consigned to these technical occupations and often have better labor market
outcomes than nonconcentrating CTE students (Bersudskaya and Chen 2011). Many modern CTE
programs provide students with strong marketable skills in high-demand occupations (Holzer, Linn, and
Monthey 2013). Sadly, many may perceive such programs and students to be "second-class citizens" in
the educational world (Foster, Hodes, and Pritz 2014).
CTE programs can have unique connections to businesses, which help position such programs as
strong alternatives for preparing to enter the workforce. CTE program centers are responsible for
maintaining an occupational advisory committee. This committee of practitioners advises teachers on
changes in the field (such as materials, processes, technology, or procedures) so instruction remains
current. The committee can also serve as sources for such experiences as internships and job shadowing
for students in the programs.
CTE teachers who come directly from their respective industries (direct-from-industry teachers are
the most common type of CTE teacher) are often certified using an alternative teacher certification


process. In many of the states across the nation, a technical skills assessment is employed as part of the
teacher credentialing process. This process ensures that CTE teacher candidates coming from industry
have experience in all aspects of the industries that they will have to teach to future workers. This same
third-party assessment of technical skills has come to be applied to students graduating from these
programs as well. In fact, the federal legislation relating to CTE, the Carl D. Perkins legislation, requires
industry-based technical skills assessment for program completers (students). This industry-based
assessment of students has resulted in a trove of data that, when combined with professional development
and a supportive group of peers, can be extremely effective in improving instruction. This case study will
examine how these assessments have been used to improve CTE instruction.

The National Research Center for Career and Technical Education developed a CTE-based datadriven improvement process and piloted it in nine schools in 2008–2009. Since then, schools in several
additional states have adopted the program. The purpose of the program is to train CTE teachers how to
interpret and apply technical skills assessment data as a part of their classroom improvement efforts.
Each school applied the model somewhat differently, but the basics of the model included collecting
data related to student knowledge and skill levels, analyzing the data for student strengths and
weaknesses, developing preliminary hypotheses on how to improve student outcomes, seeking out other
data and information to verify and enrich the hypotheses, developing a classroom action plan based on the
information, implementing and monitoring the plan, and reviewing outcomes to plan for subsequent

As indicated above, the use of data is central to this model, and technical skills assessment data play a
large role. To collect data on their programs, many CTE institutions use third-party technical skills
assessments as a supplement to classroom tests, teacher observations, projects, and other forms of
assessment. The technical skills assessment helps provide an independent confirmation of student
learning and program success, and also provides data anchored in industry-based standards, often at the
national or state level.
This testing uses a rigorous development process, involving several steps that depend on industry-based
standards and subject matter expert (SME) involvement from both industry and education. The tests
generally have sound psychometric reliability and content validity. Another important aspect of third-party
technical skills testing is that the assessments involve a standardized administration process and strong
objective scoring rubrics that help in comparing results across entities, such as classrooms, schools, or
Technical skills assessments are developed according to industry standards for the occupation. SMEs
from both industry and education provide integral input at all phases of development, starting at the
beginning of test development, including finalizing the standards on which the test is based, determining
how much of the test to devote to particular topics, and knowing how to measure knowledge of those
topics and the ability to perform critical functions (that is, writing test items for knowledge tests and
constructing work sample jobs, instructions, and scoring rubrics for performance tests). After the test draft
has been field tested and a variety of qualitative and quantitative data has been gathered, SMEs also
review that data and suggest changes to the assessment as necessary. Finally, SMEs are integral to setting
the cut score, or passing point, for tests.
Data from such assessments are often used for two purposes: (1) addressing regulatory requirements,
and (2) improving school and program (NRCCTE 2011). Both are worthwhile goals, but traditionally the


focus has been more on higher-level analyses and reporting and less on more granular analyses at the
classroom and student level.

In the past, several disconnects have occurred in getting this type of information into the classroom.
For example, student-level results may not be provided to teachers, or they may see only aggregated data.
Teachers may not even be aware of how to access other available data. Additionally, instructors may not
feel comfortable or have sufficient skill in interpreting or working with data (Foster, Hodes, Kelley, and
Pritz 2013).
The basic process of this model is focused on using detailed third-party technical assessment results
initially taken from a pretest. These pretest results provide the instructor with a glimpse into students'
existing abilities. An instructor might find lower classroom scores in blueprint reading, for example. The
next step would involve that instructor looking at other data available in the setting and “triangulating”
that data to find possible reasons for the low classroom norms in blueprint reading—perhaps a mathrelated issue, a reading problem, or an inability to conceptualize a graphic image, for example. Next, the
instructor would devise a plan with the potential to increase a student’s chance of improving his or her
competence. A community of learners as well as an outside mentor and a supportive supervisor would
then review this plan. This same supportive group would meet periodically throughout the year to review
progress and provide assistance.
The model is based on the assertion that getting data into the hands of classroom teachers and training
them how to use it will strengthen students, programs, and schools by letting the teachers view
improvement efforts with a bottom-up as well as the traditional top-down focus.
Because they are intimately familiar with their students and programs, teachers are uniquely qualified
to help diagnose and remedy instructional difficulties. Infusing data at this classroom level gives
instructors another tool to help make improvements to a program and to their own pedagogical strategies.
They are also in the best position to use this data to work with individual students, to remedy their
weaknesses or build on their strengths.
To use data effectively, teachers must be trained in how to interpret it. This can be especially true for
CTE instructors, who often enter the teaching field after years of industry experience and obtain teaching
credentials through alternative routes (Bottoms and McNally 2005). During the research, it was
determined that this training should include basic knowledge of test development and test-related terms,
and extended hands-on experience with applying the data: developing improvement plans, monitoring
effectiveness of those plans, and making adjustments as appropriate. Having teachers work with a team of
fellow teachers provides a collaborative environment that fosters the continued use of data as a part of a
school's data culture (Foster, Hodes, and Pritz 2014).
In this model, the process begins with the choice of a small team of teachers and administrators from
selected CTE programs at participating schools (usually four to eight teachers and administrators per
school). Once this is done, the students in those programs are pretested on a technical skills assessment.
Teachers and administrators use that data as a part of a day-long workshop during which they learn about
interpreting test data, practice the skill with data on their own students' pretests, and develop an initial
action plan related to classroom improvement with their own students. After the workshop, the facilitator
continues to work with the team for a period of almost a school year, facilitating ongoing team meetings
(both within and across schools as appropriate) and a variety of postworkshop activities to complete the
action plans and review and alter them based on additional data and student progress. Near the end of the
year, the teams evaluate the success of the action plans based on a variety of student outcomes, discuss
lessons learned, and plan for applying the process in subsequent years.


The exact form of the model will vary according to a state or school's unique challenges and needs.
However, several years of self-reported evaluations from teachers and administrators have shown that
they can use the core components and philosophy effectively in both rural and urban schools, in programs
that are doing well and those that are struggling, with teachers who have a range of experience levels, and
in both the secondary and postsecondary environment. Below are a couple of specific examples.

This process has been used in California since 2012, within a mentor-teacher program designed for
new CTE teachers who are transitioning from working in industry to teaching those skills in a classroom.
The Teacher Induction Program (TIP), established in 2006, received state recognition because of its focus
on nonevaluative classroom-based assistance. During 2012–2013, technical data were infused into this
program and it was implemented in 13 schools across the state. Small data teams, consisting of a mentor
and two teachers, were formed at each location. Mentors were trained in the model and worked with their
teachers throughout the school year.
Mentors worked closely with their teachers to choose appropriate technical skills assessments, as well
as to locate other student-related data, for use in developing an action plan for the year. Once students
completed their pretesting and the results were available, mentors, teachers, and state-trained staff
members came together for a one-day training event.
Teachers brought their students' test scores to the session as well as the other data they were able to
gather and were guided through the process of analyzing that data and constructing a preliminary action
plan. Teachers had additional time after the workshop to complete their action plans back at their home
schools. They reviewed these plans with CTE TEACH administrators during local visits to each school.
The administrators also reviewed the training given earlier and responded to any additional questions or
issues that may have come up.
Administrators supported the mentors with monthly web meetings related to the project, allowing
mentors to collaborate with each other and discuss issues that each of the school-based teams were facing
as they implemented their action plans. State-supported staff also made a mid-project visit to each of the
individual schools to meet with the project teams.
At the end of the project, the National Center for CTE Research made visits to each location to review
the results of the project, including posttest scores on technical skills assessments and successes in the
action plans. These visits and evaluations showed that teachers had seen a lot of value in the process and
they strongly agreed that technical skills assessment data were a valuable tool for making instructional
improvements. Based on the successes of the first year, the program was expanded in the following year
to include both existing and new schools. The program continues and to date has trained more than 200
mentors providing direct support to more than 500 new teachers.

In 2009, the Minnesota Department of Education began a project within the state related to using
technical skills assessment. This project involved community and technical colleges as well as high
schools. The goals were to develop a system to provide useful information about student achievement in
technical programs, to improve those programs, and to create strong connections between secondary and
postsecondary entities.
Important to this project was not only establishing a system for administering technical skills
assessments within the state but also training secondary and postsecondary instructors in the use of the
data such assessments provide. Instructors were trained according to the model described in this article.


The implementation of this model helped to give instructors the skills they needed to use data effectively,
to gather additional data to supplement technical skills assessments, and to construct action plans to guide
program improvement efforts throughout the year. These local efforts provided instructors with the
knowledge and tools necessary to effect instructional and resource improvements at the local level. This
model also helped provide data for accreditation of postsecondary entities.
Schools used the aggregated results of testing to support and report on improvement efforts, but
instructors used data with individual students and classrooms and have been able to track progress over
time. These data have also been used to keep program advisory committees and local industry partners
apprised with objective program performance data to keep them engaged in supporting improvements and
modifications. Because of the success of this program, the state is currently reviewing the viability of
using statewide technical assessment data to identify high-performing programs so that teachers in those
programs can share, statewide, instructional improvement strategies. Broadly, wide-scale implementation
of improvements based on data and evaluation of the effectiveness of these technical training programs
provides opportunities to show their value so that they may be adopted more widely and recognized by

Barton, P., and R. Coley. 2011. "The Mission of the High School: A New Consensus of the Purposes of
Public Education?" Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. (accessed June 20, 2014).
Bersudskaya, Vera and Xianglei Chen. 2011. “Issue Tables: Postsecondary and Labor Force Transitions
among Public High School Career and Technical Education Participants.” Issue Table NCES 2011234. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
Bottoms, G. and K. McNally. 2005. "Actions States Can Take to Place a Highly-Qualified Career
Technical Teacher in Every Classroom." Atlanta: Southern Regional Education Board.
Foster, J.; C. Hodes; and S. Pritz. 2014. Putting Your Data to Work: Improving Instruction in
CTE. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Career and Technical Education.
Foster, J.; C. Hodes; P. Kelley; and S. Pritz. 2013. "Professional development in CTE data driven
methods: Development of a research-based intervention." Online Journal for Workforce Education
and Development 6(1). (accessed April 16, 2014).
Hoffman, Nancy. 2011. Schooling in the Workplace: How Six of the World’s Best Vocational Education
Systems Prepare Young People for Jobs and Life. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Education Press.
Holzer, H.; D. Linn; and W. Monthey. 2013. "The Promise of High-Quality Career and Technical
Education: Improving Outcomes for Students, Firms, and the Economy." The College Board and the
Georgetown Law Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy. (accessed June 23, 2014).
National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE), Professional Development
Joint Working Group. 2011. Improving Secondary Career and Technical Education through
Professional Development: Certification and Use of Technical Assessment Data. Louisville, KY:
National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Louisville. (accessed April 16,
Symonds, William C., Robert Schwartz, and Ronald F. Ferguson. 2011. Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting
the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: Pathways to


Prosperity Project, Harvard University Graduate School of Education. (accessed April
16, 2014).


Implementing Competency-Based Education:
Lessons from Raritan Valley Community
College’s Workforce Development Project
Michelle Van Noy
Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers University
Michael Metzgar
Raritan Valley Community College
Shaunna Jagneaux
Raritan Valley Community College
Competency-based education (CBE) has the potential to transform traditional academic programs to
better prepare students for the workforce. With a CBE approach, colleges identify and articulate specific
competencies that are required for success, evaluate student competency with direct assessments of
mastery, and allow students to progress at their own pace as they demonstrate mastery (Klein-Collins
2013). CBE is thought to be a promising approach to promote better learning outcomes because of its
emphasis on mastery of skill and knowledge (Klein-Collins 2013, Kamenetz 2013, Laitinen 2012). While
CBE is a promising national practice with a great deal of current interest, research on its ultimate
effectiveness on students’ outcomes is still under way. However, given the early stages of adoption of
CBE, careful attention to lessons from early adopters can ensure that ongoing implementation is done in a
way that is most likely to yield successful outcomes. This case study documents implementation lessons
of a CBE approach in the context of community college workforce programs.
Because CBE diverges from the traditional credit-hour system, implementing CBE reforms requires
rethinking a range of organizational conventions in how programs are offered. The CBE approach
challenges key organizational assumptions around how learning is assessed and the time frame for
learning. These assumptions are institutionalized into policies, practices, and long-held ideas about how to
best educate students. Organizational change in higher education in general is difficult, and is particularly
so when it involves core reforms to learning approaches (Kezar 2013). As colleges throughout the United
States seek to develop competency-based learning approaches, lessons are needed on how to implement
these reforms and address the organizational challenges involved. Some colleges are beginning to provide
examples of how to approach CBE reforms, but much remains to be known (Klein-Collins 2012, Ashford

Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in Branchburg, New Jersey, has been at the forefront of
the CBE reform movement nationally with its Greater Raritan Workforce Development Project (WDP)
funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Community College and Career grant
program in 2011. Through this project, RVCC sought to reform 10 workforce programs by aligning its
content with local employer needs, transforming the delivery of the content to use a CBE approach, and
providing active student supports to promote completion and successful job placement. This case study


draws on lessons from the first two workforce programs at RVCC that were reformed through the grant:
automotive and cosmetology. We examine two questions: What were significant organizational and
instructional challenges in making the shift to a CBE model in its workforce programs? How did the
WDP overcome these challenges?
The traditional academic model poses challenges for workforce education in several ways, including
in its curriculum, calendar, faculty, grading, and instructional approaches. The WDP’s CBE reforms
generated an alternative model to the traditional academic model, in the context of a transfer-oriented
institution. With this institutional orientation, these reforms may face greater challenges because the
primary goal of workforce programs—to prepare students for jobs—is not well understood or integrated
in the college at large. We discuss key changes that the WDP made in the organizational structures of the
college and the instructional practices of its programs. In both areas, we discuss the implementation
challenges the WDP faced and the ways it sought to address those challenges. Challenges included both
procedural challenges— the processes and systems that govern how the college operates—and cultural
challenges—how faculty and staff view certain ideas or approaches.

The WDP faced several implementation challenges related to the traditional organizational structures
of the college. A major challenge was the time frame for programs because CBE does not neatly fit into
the traditional college semester. In its ideal form, CBE is open entry and open exit, with the timeframe
dictated by students’ learning needs. However, within the context of a traditional college, the practical
solution to move towards this goal was to use quarters. This time frame allowed for more frequent entry
and exit, as well as year-round operations through the summer and over breaks. Furthermore, since
changing the time frame of programs requires procedural fixes to student information systems, moving to
a quarter system was tenable because it worked with the system. Changing the time frame of programs
also requires a cultural shift that involves changing conceptions about what constitutes success: mastery
versus seat time. This cultural shift is still in progress, while the WDP continues to introduce the concept
around the college.
The traditional faculty model was another organizational structure that required adaptation when
moving to a CBE model. Traditional college faculty members typically do not teach year round and
sometimes are not well connected to the local labor market, especially when the college requires that
faculty meet certain credential requirements. The solution for the WDP was to create a new nonunion
position of “workforce educator.” Instructors in this role work year round. Their work experience and
industry connections are prioritized over credentials. The WDP worked within the college to create this
new position procedurally. Culturally, the role was accepted as it was viewed as distinctively part of the
college’s workforce mission and not a role that would be applied to the rest of the college’s traditional
Determining whether to locate the CBE program as a credit or noncredit program was another
significant consideration in the implementation of this model. While CBE in concept moves beyond the
idea of seat time that drives credit-based education, official college credentials are still awarded via
credit-bearing programs. The college did not offer the CBE programs for traditional credit but rather as
part of their noncredit offerings. The potential organizational barriers involved in the process of offering
these programs for credit were too great and too uncertain to complete in the period of the grant-funded
project. However, to ensure that students in these programs would be able to gain credit if they sought
additional education, the WDP sought to create an agreement with the New Jersey Pathways Leading
Apprentices to a College Education (NJ PLACE) program—a statewide program that provides a
mechanism to translate competency-based education into credits accepted at New Jersey’s community


Financial aid was another challenge in the implementation of this CBE model. The college lacked
clarity on how to apply the federal financial aid option for CBE. Instead of using this option, they
translated programs into a clock-hour program as an interim step to figuring out CBE financial aid. The
issue remains a challenge until guidance on how to implement federal policy is clearer (Porter 2014).

The WDP developed instructional practices that were fundamentally different from the college’s
traditional approach. Industry engagement was a core foundation of the programs, as employers played a
crucial role in articulating program competencies. The WDP used several strategies to engage with
industry to assess competencies when developing the curriculum, including SCID (short for Systematic
Curriculum and Instructional Development) and its DACUM (short for Developing a Curriculum)
process. With these strategies, program staff engaged with both hiring managers and expert workers
through structured meetings to gather information on the specific knowledge, skills, traits, and behaviors
workers must possess to perform the job well. Program staff translated these into curriculum, classroom
policy, and entrance requirements. While these processes are time consuming, they provided very detailed
information that was very closely linked to local industry needs. In the case of the automotive program,
the WDP learned that national credentials (that is, Automotive Service Excellence certification) were not
prioritized by employers, so the resulting curriculum was based on local industry need with instructional
materials developed by the instructor. In the case of the cosmetology program, the WDP needed to adhere
to the state board requirements, but added and removed other materials in the curriculum based on local
employer needs.
The WDP sought to ensure that the instructional approaches effectively conveyed competencies. The
WDP had to find the right balance between hands-on versus classroom-based instruction. Providing
adequate amounts of hands-on opportunities proved to be a challenge initially. The automotive program
began with 17 students and one instructor. It quickly became obvious that multiple instructors had to be
involved in the program to effectively provide hands-on learning opportunities for students. Additionally,
this program encountered constraints with equipment, which were later resolved by changing facilities.
However, the WDP’s experience with instructor and equipment constraints points to two lessons. One is
to plan carefully for ample staff and equipment. The other is to acknowledge that constraints in staff and
equipment may exist, and to plan for alternative activities to supplement students’ learning or to develop a
plan to stagger the timing of students’ hands-on activities. A fundamental challenge for instructors is to
keep students on task and effectively customize learning to their individual levels. Since WDP students
began as a cohort, with its benefits in terms of retention, instructors had to develop supplemental activities
to help more advanced students move ahead with their learning while other students mastered the
The CBE model altered the standards for what constitutes success. With this model, soft skills as well
as technical skills were included as core competencies for students to attain. The WDP sought to convey
soft skills for the workplace through a variety of approaches: classroom norm setting, work-based
learning experiences, faculty and program staff feedback, and some formal instruction on soft skills. This
emphasis was a shift in how programs approach instruction and a challenge for instructors who typically
did not directly focus on these competencies. To address this challenge, the WDP provided more
professional development for faculty and plans to use Active Grade, a software program that will
integrate soft skills into assessments and help faculty track students’ soft skills development.
Assessments of learning were fundamentally different with the CBE model, since the program goal is
to ensure that students possess all the competencies required to be a successful employee. How to record
measures of learning for CBE within existing grading systems was not clear since CBE did not fit within
traditional academic grading systems. The solution with the existing grading systems was to make the
programs pass/fail. Even though the programs were officially noncredit, they were included in the
academic grading system and grades were recorded. To conduct CBE assessments, instructors had to


develop formal assessments as well as systems to conduct those assessments. As with the hands-on
experience for students, hands-on assessments required multiple instructors and a plan for how to best use
the time of students not taking assessments. Finally, the WDP sought to validate the CBE assessments
through employer feedback. Employers who provide internships for students at the end of the program
rate the student’s performance. If the employers report they would hire the student based on their
experiences, the student successfully passes the program. If not, the program will take the student back
and continue to work on the competencies the employer reported as lacking.

Since the implementation of this CBE model occurred in the context of a federal grant to the college,
the WDP had resources to support the implementation. They devoted resources to employer engagement
that the college did not normally have: two full-time staff members who engaged with employers to
assess competencies when building the program curriculum and to connect students with job-shadowing
experiences, internships, and jobs upon completion. In addition, the program used the grant resources to
try to develop relationships with others at the college and foster support for change in college practices.
The federal grant’s three-year timeline dictated the timeline for the implementation of these CBE reforms.
The WDP developed the new automotive program within the first year of the grant, and reformed the
cosmetology program within a similar time frame. Had the program sought to work within the credit
programs of the college, however, the time frame would have been longer.
In addition to the grant resources, college leadership provided essential support for the CBE reforms
to help work through the organizational changes required to implement the program. Replicating the
program in other communities would require a focus on funding. Similar programs may be funded
through similar federal grants, but funding could also come through local partnerships with industry
organizations or community foundations.

Outcomes of this CBE model are positive but still short term. Among the first program cohorts,
program completion and employment rates have increased, and employers have provided favorable
feedback. In addition, time to completion has been significantly decreased. However, a full understanding
of the outcome of this model is not known as long-term outcomes are still pending.
Adopting a CBE model is not a simple process but requires navigating a range of institutional
obstacles, particularly in the context of a transfer-oriented college. Overcoming these obstacles was made
easier by the presence of external funding as an incentive, although still not a full solution to the barriers.
In the absence of such funding, college leadership plays an especially important role in creating a
supportive environment for organizational change, as does the work of amenable program members who
can illustrate the value of the approach more broadly in the college. Part of the challenge of implementing
CBE is the specific knowledge about its implementation. As CBE becomes more common, more
resources will be available to guide colleges in its implementation. The increasing knowledge about CBE,
as well as the increasing pressure on higher education to transform, will likely build more support for it as
an approach. Nevertheless, the tensions between traditional educational models and CBE are likely to
persist to some degree.

Ashford, E. 2013. “New Courses Stress Competency to Meet Workforce Needs.” Community College
Times. October 18, 2013.
Kamenetz, A. 2013. “Are You Competent? Prove It.” New York Times. October 29, 2013.


Kezar, A. 2013. “Institutionalizing Student Outcomes Assessment: The Need for Better Research to
Inform Practice.” Innovation in Higher Education 38: 189–206.
Klein-Collins, R. 2013. Sharpening Our Focus on Learning: The Rise of Competency-Based Approaches
to Degree Completion. Champaign, IL: National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.
___. 2012. Competency-Based Degree Programs in the U.S.: Postsecondary Credentials for Measurable
Student Learning and Performance. Chicago, IL: Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.
Laitinen, A. 2012. Cracking the Credit Hour. Washington DC: New America Foundation and Education
Porter, S. 2014. Competency-Based Education and Federal Student Aid. Raleigh, NC: Department of
Leadership, Policy, and Adult Education, North Carolina State University.

Whether and how the credits from NJ PLACE are accepted by programs will vary by college


Employers’ Investment in Career Pathways
Improves Retention and Enhances Employee
Engagement in Cincinnati, Ohio
Sharron M. DiMario
Health Careers Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati
Joel A. Elvery
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
Christopher Spence
New Growth Group

Partners for a Competitive Workforce (PCW, or the Partnership) is a community collaboration of
more than 150 businesses, workforce investment boards, chambers of commerce, secondary and
postsecondary institutions, service providers, and philanthropic funders. It is located in Greater
Cincinnati, which includes portions of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The Partnership was established in
2008 to coordinate all of the region’s workforce efforts under a common umbrella to set joint priorities,
track progress, and accelerate collaboration. The United Way of Greater Cincinnati manages PCW, with
major support from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and local funders. Its work creates
industry-driven partnerships among employers, schools, colleges, and community organizations to close
the skill gaps in key, in-demand industries specific to the Cincinnati economy: health care, advanced
manufacturing, construction, and information technology.
The Greater Cincinnati region’s health care workforce initiative began in 1999 when employer,
education, and workforce partners joined together to find a way to fill high-need hospital positions. In
2003, the Health Careers Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati (HCC) was formalized to assemble a career
pathway system to address health care workforce shortages and enhance diversity.1

Early conversations with employers focused on creating career pathways to encourage low-wage,
incumbent workers to get training for key allied health occupations to move up within the organization. In
turn, this created openings in the jobs previously held by the trainees that were potentially able to be
backfilled by unemployed individuals. The group developed the following guiding principles, which are
reviewed in annual planning sessions:

Focus on job and educational advancement for low-income adults while also meeting employer
Map advancement pathways and opportunities in job sectors of importance to the region.
Build on existing state-supported initiatives, such as the Higher Skills Partnerships, the
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, formerly the Workforce Investment Act),
and One-Stop Career Centers. (These centers, now called American Job Centers, offer training



referrals, career counseling, job listings, and more, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s
Commit to systemic change within and across institutions and not just implementation of
unsustainable demonstration projects.

These principles have led to the creation of career pathways that lead to associate’s degrees in
nursing, medical lab technology, respiratory care technology, occupational therapy assistant technology,
surgical assistant technology, and health information technology.
Most participants in the career pathways are recruited by employers. After finding that a number of
incumbent workers needed additional assistance with basic skills in mathematics, reading, and writing
before accessing college-level courses, employers adopted on-the-job technical and soft skills assessment
and development. The on-the-job classes use a proprietary curriculum from Catalyst Learning called
School at Work®. The classes are taught by job coaches who are embedded in each hospital system, or
other trained employees. This has reduced employees’ remedial coursework (and associated costs) once
they start at community college and accelerated their progress. When the participants are ready to enroll
in the pathway, employers offer prepaid tuition. Mid-level employees seeking educational opportunities
are provided career exploration tools.
After researching available assessment tools, HCC and its partners selected the ACT assessments
known as WorkKeys®, which can lead to a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC).2 These
assessments were integrated into every phase of the HCC pathway work starting in 2011. They provide
employers with a reliable method of predicting job performance beyond the basic skills of applied
mathematics, locating information, and reading for information. The NCRC Plus ranks individuals in the
soft skills categories of work discipline, teamwork, customer service orientation, and managerial
potential. Combining the measurements of cognitive skills and work-related behaviors—or soft skills—
can help employers predict an individual's success at work.

The career pathways programs also rely on partnerships with community colleges, the local one-stop
employment centers, and community-based organizations. Each of these contributes vital pieces to the
system. Several community colleges have worked with the HCC employers to identify funding to develop
new pathways, develop a core curriculum, and create stackable credentials. Stackable credentials are ones
that together add up to a greater credential. Advisers provide intensive support that improves the
likelihood of certificate and degree completion. They have also implemented a cohort model, allowing
participants to move together through all levels of training. Students benefit from the peer-based support
and interpersonal connections of their cohort. To accommodate full-time work schedules, the associate’s
degree programs are offered a maximum of three days each week in late afternoon and early evening.
Another college offers a Bioscience Manufacturing curriculum and a six-month Health Information
Technology Support Professional certification in collaboration with HCC to round out a number of
opportunities for employees.
Short-term certificate programs are also a crucial piece of the HCC’s work. These certificates are
often the first step in preparing students for a career in health care, where they can earn a sustainable
wage with benefits. It is also the first rung on a career ladder that offers educational and employment
advancement. The Health Professions Academy at Great Oaks Institute of Technology offers multiple
short-term credentials such as patient care assistant and state-tested nursing assistant, as well as one-onone career coaching and guidance to enhance participant employability.
The Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board (SWORWIB) is a key partner for the HCC.
The board offers guidance to the HCC and helps connect prospective training participants with
appropriate U.S. Department of Labor resources, including WIOA funds. SWORWIB’s alignment of


federal training dollars to targeted sectors has been a tremendous enabler for the work of HCC. The HCC
includes Mercy Neighborhood Ministries and Dress for Success Cincinnati as partners. These
community-based organizations help identify and refer potential candidates to the training partners.
Additionally, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries offers a home health care aide training program and a
work-readiness preparation program called “Building Foundations for Life.” Recruitment for this program
focuses on long-term unemployed, at-risk women who lack the basic skills required to enter the
workforce. The curriculum includes essential workplace and life management skills, basic financial
literacy, computer skills, WorkKeys assessments, and remediation in reading and math. Dress for
Success, a community workplace clothing donation organization, supports the pathway participants by
providing them with professional attire, a support network, and career development tools.

HCC has placed major emphasis on developing the systems and discipline for performance
management, continuous improvement, and evaluation. The most important component of this has been
the adoption of a shared data system (initially invested in by SWORWIB) that captures participant data
across many organizations. The system requires partnering service providers to input data about each
participant into a central database, which helps maintain visibility on individuals and their progress as
they transition across parts of the pathways. This has enabled HCC and PCW to rigorously evaluate their
programs and identify what works.
A 2011 study that an impartial third-party organization conducted sought to determine the net benefits
received by employers as a result of participation in the HCC partnership. The study compared 90 UC
Health employees who participated in HCC’s associate degree cohort program to a matched comparison
group of individuals hired in similar occupations at similar times. The analysis included participants who
were HCC participants from 2005 through 2010 and extrapolated through the completion of in-progress
cohorts in 2013. The set of costs and benefits to incorporate in the analysis was established in a facilitated
discussion with hospital human resources staffs.3 One major hospital system provided individual-level
data from its human resources database, including start and stop dates, occupations, absences, and
promotions. Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, where participants attended school,
provided data on tuition payments, including payment sources. The study made assumptions, based on a
literature review, of the cost of hiring and turnover for each position, estimating the total present
discounted value of costs to be $1.82 million, mostly attributable to tuition payments and the cost of
backfilling positions when participants were promoted. It estimated benefits to be approximately $2.04
million, mostly attributable to recruitment cost savings when the employees completed training and were
promoted to in-demand occupations. Finally, it estimated the net return to be $216,137 on an investment
of $1.82 million, giving a return-on-investment of 11.9 percent (New Growth Group 2011).
A second analysis quantified the benefit to UC Health from certificate training programs provided by
HCC, which prepare individuals for entry-level health care occupations requiring certificates below the
associate degree. This certificate training cost the employers little due to the partnership’s leveraged
public and grant funding but provided them substantial benefits. The net benefit to the employers per
HCC participant hired was estimated to be $4,869, due equally to lower turnover and reduced recruitment
costs. Because of the large scale of the program (525 employees between 2005 and 2010), the present
discounted value of the net benefits from the certificate program is more than $2.6 million (New Growth
Group 2011). In addition, UC Health reported additional, nonmonetary benefits: improved job
performance among pathways participants, increased diversity of the workforce, and improved fulfillment
of the organization’s community service mission.
A third study, commissioned by health system partner TriHealth in 2013, found a positive influence
on return on investment. A number of different indicators were examined, such as turnover rate, employee
satisfaction, diversity, performance counseling, employee evaluation, and percent change in pay. While a


variety of results were noted, some significant differences pointed towards the benefit of such programs.
Positive results from this study included:

Lower turnover rate for all groups participating in the HCC programs
Greater employee satisfaction in patient care assistant and HCC treatment groups
Greater diversity in all groups involved in the HCC programs, such as an increased percentage of
African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans
High evaluation scores and minimal rates of performance counseling for those groups
participating in the programs
Greater percent change in pay over time for the School at Work and HCC groups (Moran and
Bhardwaj 2013)

So far this case has focused on HCC, but PCW has developed similar employer-led career pathways
for low-skilled individuals in the construction, manufacturing, and (more recently) information
technology sectors. Since 2008, the partners collaborating to develop pathways in these four sectors have
served more than 7,800 individuals. More than 8,300 credentials have been earned, with a completion rate
of 87 percent. Eighty-one percent of those exiting the program have obtained employment, and 75 percent
have retained employment after 12 months. These results include more than 1,600 incumbent workers
who have taken some form of training and have nearly 1,300 credentials.4 Table 4.1 lists the types and
numbers of credentials awarded.
The career pathways partnerships facilitate a number of different programs ranging from short, jobreadiness training to longer-term associate degree programs. An analysis of 3,852 unique program
completers revealed that the following credentials were earned:5,6
Table 4.1: Completers, by Longest Program
Highest exit type
Count Percent
Associate's degree
66 1.7
Occupational license
27 0.7
Occupational certificate
1,557 40.4
Other certificate
601 15.6
275 7.1
Job readiness training
1,326 34.4
SOURCE: New Growth Group (2013)
A third-party evaluation found that these programs have increased monthly earnings in the Cincinnati
area by $614,807 and have cumulatively contributed $7.3 million per year to the area just in the form of
higher participant earnings. The evaluation matched participants in PCW’s more intensive programs with
similar participants who received only job-readiness trainings to measure PCW’s impact on employment
and earnings. All programs increased monthly earnings one year after exit, though the effect of
associate’s degrees is statistically insignificant due to fewer completers. PCW’s programs help
participants reach employment more quickly, but for most training levels, the job-readiness-only
participants eventually reach similar employment rates four quarters after exit (New Growth Group 2013).
The exception is occupational certificate recipients—the largest group of PCW participants—whose
employment rate is 30 percentage points higher than that of comparable job-readiness-only participants.
Associate’s degree recipients have similar gains, though they are not statistically significant due to the


small sample size. This finding suggests that training that prepares people for specific in-demand
occupations dramatically increases their probability of being employed even a year after completing
training. However, the employment benefits of less-specific training are not as long-lived.
Figure 4.1 Monthly Earnings after Program Exit









SOURCE: New Growth Group (2013)
Behind these numbers are thousands of participants like Kevin, a 20-something African American
who has long dreamed of becoming a nurse. He is now well along his way thanks to the career pathway
that HCC developed. He began his career at TriHealth as an environmental services floor technician.
While working there, he is using prepaid tuition credits to take registered nurse associate’s degree courses
at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College on a part-time basis. Kevin started his clinicals in
the fall of 2013 in the surgery department at TriHealth and maintains an almost perfect grade point
average. Upon graduation, he will apply for nursing positions at TriHealth. Once he becomes an RN, his
income will increase by more than 50 percent.

1. Create and sustain an employer-led, multi-stakeholder advisory committee. Collaboration among
committed representatives from employers, educational institutions, and community-based
organizations has been critical to HCC’s success.


2. Finance and place a high priority on employee education and training. For example, employerprepaid tuition removed barriers for employee engagement.
3. Invest in data collection and analysis. A shared database was necessary for PCW to demonstrate
impact and thereby make the case for ongoing support. Early engagement, thoughtful training,
and funding tied to data entry helped to get all partnering organizations to comply with the
4. Take small steps through the creation of educational pathways. On-the-job training and the
chance to earn certificates and credentials build employees’ confidence so they are ready to
engage in more vigorous instruction.
5. Monitor and evaluate program participation, effectiveness, and impact. Employer return-oninvestment studies and regular, consistent communication with educational partners help to
identify opportunities for, and challenges to, program growth.
By coming together, PCW’s employers, educational institutions, and other service providers were
able to identify and address gaps in services and impediments to individuals’ progress. They were able to
add slots for clinical training, for example, and had employers pay for tuition directly. This cooperation
and resulting early action have resulted in highly effective career pathway programs in health care,
manufacturing, construction, and information technology. A shared data system allowed PCW and its
partners to rigorously evaluate its work and prove that it has had substantial impacts, both on individual
participants and on Greater Cincinnati.

Moran, R. and N. Bhardwaj. 2013. “Investing in the Future of the Health Care Workforce: An Analysis of
the Impact of HCC Programs at TriHealth.” Cincinnati, OH: TriHealth Inc.
New Growth Group. 2011. "Health Careers Collaborative: Return on Investment (2011).” Cleveland, OH.
___. 2013. "Partners for a Competitive Workforce: Participant Employment and Earnings Outcomes, 1st
Quarter 2007–2nd Quarter 2012." Cleveland, OH.

See for more information, including a list of current partners.


ACT is the same company that administers college entrance exams, among other activities


Costs were estimations of administrative costs borne by employers, tuition payments, increases in
absences during training, cost of hiring replacements for current positions when participants complete and
are promoted (backfilling). Benefits were reduction in turnover during training and lower hiring and
training costs of promoted workers when compared to outside hires.

The figures cited in this paragraph were provided by Janice Urbanik, PCW’s executive director, on
April 30, 2014.

No completers from the information technology pathway are included in this table.


Associate degrees include nursing and health information technology. Occupational licenses are
primarily for state-tested fpara assistants who had already completed training but had not yet passed the
state license. Occupational certificates include manufacturing programs such as those for Computer
Numeric Control operators, welders, bio-science technicians, pharmaceutical technicians, and electromechanical technicians; the Manufacturing Skills Certification Systems (MSSC) certificate is also an
occupational certificate. Occupational certificates also include construction programs such as carpentry,


electrician, plumbing, HVAC, and pre-apprenticeship certificates (e.g. NCCER [National Center for
Construction Education and Research] Certification. Other certificates include non-occupation-specific
certificates, such as CPR or OSHA 10.


Investing in Frontline Health Care Workers:
Cases from Maryland, West Virginia, and
North Carolina
Shannon McKay
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Jennifer Giovannitti
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Integrating employers into the development and delivery of education and skills training programs is
an effective strategy to reshape the U.S. workforce development system, tie it to currently available jobs,
and produce better results for job seekers (Maguire et al. 2010). Private employers are estimated to have
spent $164.2 billion on employee learning in 2012 (ASTD 2013). When including indirect spending on
training—coaching and informal training—estimates range from $500 billion to $1.1 trillion a year
(Carnevale, Strohl, and Gulish 2015). While most private sector employee training is disproportionately
targeted at more highly educated workers, better use of frontline workers has become a focus for some
companies (Lerman, Signe-Mary, and Riegg 2004).
Since 2009, the Hitachi Foundation designates companies as “pioneer employers” when they take the
initiative “to benefit their customers, patients, and/or shareholders by strategically investing in their own
lower-wage workers” (Hitachi Foundation 2010). These strategic investments have come through
innovations in at least one of three areas—human capital, mix of products and services, and
production/service methods. Hitachi found that these innovations created value for the employers while
simultaneously benefiting frontline workers through better training, increased motivation levels, more
career advancement, and potentially higher standard of living (Levine, Popovich, and Strong 2013). The
success of these innovations hinged on four critical factors: consistent leadership and vision, winning
buy-in from key players, establishing a culture of learning, and coaching approaches to supervision
(Levine et al. 2013).
The health care industry is one sector that stands to gain from employer innovation. By 2022, the
health care and social assistance industry sector is projected to be the largest employer across all
industries in the United States (Henderson 2013). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that
roughly five million jobs will be created in this sector between 2012 and 2022 (Henderson 2013).
Occupations that assist medical providers with their clients will have the largest share of new jobs. The
number of new jobs is significant, ranging from 527,000 registered nurses (2012 median annual wage of
$65,470; required entry education of an associate’s degree) to 163,000 medical assistants (2012 median
annual wage of $29,370; typical entry education of a postsecondary nondegree award) (Richards and
Terkanian 2013). The high number of new openings raises the questions of how these occupations will be
filled and will there be enough qualified candidates.
Frontline workers, those providing basic services and care in hospitals, have the lowest median
salaries among health care occupations (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014). Given the high demand for


registered nurses, the internal training and promotion of frontline workers may offer one possibility for
filling these new jobs.
This case study looks at a set of health care sector “Pioneer Employers” located within the district
boundaries of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Pioneer Employers are organizations that Hitachi
identifies for their ability to solve not only business challenges but also social problems through a mix of
innovative workforce development strategies and product/service models (Levine, Popovich, and Strong
2013). Across the five Pioneer Employers, we found commonalities around two workforce development
strategies: team-based work structure and skill development opportunities. By implementing these
strategies, the Pioneer Employers reported operational efficiency increases, better patient outcomes, staff
turnover declines, better job satisfaction, and advancement along newly established career ladders. While
direct investment in frontline workers has benefited both the workers and their organizations, upward
economic mobility in the health care sector for these workers remains a challenge.

The cases highlighted in this study include five health care sector employers located in Maryland
(Augsburg Lutheran Home, Chesapeake Connections, and the Family Health Center at Franklin Square),
West Virginia (Cabin Creek Health Systems), and North Carolina (University of North Carolina (UNC)
Health Care System). Interviews were conducted with key leaders from each organization. Table 5.1
provides details about each of the cases, which will henceforth be referred to as Pioneer Employers.


Table 5.1 Case Characteristics
Cabin Creek
Lutheran Home Health Systems

continuing care
County, MD

Year Started
Staff Size

Over 250


• Increasing staff
with clinical
• Consistently
assigning staff
to clients to
quality of care
• Forming care
resource teams

qualified health


Family Health
Center at
Franklin Square
Community-based Outpatient
medical clinic

UNC Health
Care System

Public hospital
with an
integrated health
care system
Kanawha County, City of Baltimore, City of Baltimore, Chapel Hill, NC
WV (4 offices)
(9 distinct
127 employees
At least 46 full- At least 50
8,190 paid full(33 medical
time direct-care employees (15–18 time employees
certified medical
• Training to
• Using a slogan • Creating
• Creating career
become mobile
for success
medical safety
ladder for
patient care
• Implementing
programs for
• Using pairing
structure of MA (staff
• Forming “do-it” support staff
with provider to empowerment)
remove isolation • Providing
• Assembling
of MAs
• Increasing
• Planning
autonomy and
trainings around (flexible
location access
for nursing
• Empowering
training cost
and schedule
coverage, salary staff to think
• Empowering
increase upon
independently • Offering
MAs to make
• Promoting
• Implementing
formula for pay • Using kudos and education as
• Offering
increases that
well as further
greater patient
• Offering
• Incorporating
(adding two new
positions to
career ladder)

SOURCES: Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute 2010; Blash, Dower, and Chapman 2010; Dailey 2011;
Blash, Dower, and Chapman 2011; and Hitachi Foundation undated


This study’s Pioneer Employers were focused on investing in frontline workers to improve two key
organizational competencies: operational efficiency and client care. Operational inefficiencies were
evident through high staff turnover rates, an underutilization of workers’ capabilities, and inconsistent
training approaches and outcomes. Client care approaches were not capitalizing on the multitude of touch
points that the frontline staff had with clients (such as taking vitals, drawing blood, bathing, and
administering medicine), where medical errors could be recognized, corrected, and used as a learning
opportunity to prevent future occurrences through process changes. Although frontline workers’ wage
increases or career ladders were not the catalysts for improving organizational competencies, they became
tools to help achieve operational efficiency and client care.

Team-Based Work Structure
The Pioneer Employers saw an empowered and better-trained frontline workforce as fundamental to
solving the problems of operational inefficiency and suboptimal client care. In principle, when medical
assistants can function at their highest level, more senior staff such as nurses and providers can as well. A
common strategy to achieving these goals of training and empowerment was to modify work processes to
better integrate frontline workers into broader health care teams, both physically and operationally. (See
table 5.1 for case details.) In a team-based setting with specific role assignments, members rely on each
other to make sure all assigned tasks are accomplished. This greater level of accountability empowers
frontline workers and provides clear recognition of the value they add to the process.
Under the team-based work structure, frontline workers handled an increased number and variety of
tasks. However, the Pioneer Employers recognized that their frontline workers received minimal crosstraining on new tasks, such as entering data into an electronic health records system or conducting inhome visits. This lack of cross-training was compounded by how physically isolated frontline workers
were from other client care-based staff. For example, medical assistants would be clustered together in a
workspace away from nurses and other providers. This arrangement limited opportunities for medical
assistants to pass along the important and medically useful observations they had gathered from their
interactions with patients. The new team-based structure focused on creating shared work structures, and
often work spaces, with frontline workers and senior staff to better create opportunities for informal
training and to consult with each other on patients.
An organization’s transition to more team-based work structures varied from employer to employer
(see table 5.2 for case specifics). For UNC Health Care System, the decision was made at an institutional
level with strong support from senior management to pair nursing assistants with registered nurses to
promote consistent and focused client care. With Augsburg Lutheran Home, its election to become part of
LifeSpan Network’s Wellspring Program brought the formation of multi-person care resource teams
(CRTs) who focus on a single client care opportunity—for example, preventing falls. At Cabin Creek,
medical assistants share the same office space as their assigned provider.

Skills Development Opportunities
To develop more skilled frontline workers, the Pioneer Employers used a mix of formal and informal
training opportunities. The formal training included clinical training modules (Augsburg), mobile patient
care facilitator training (Cabin Creek), and a medical safety training program (Franklin Square). The
informal opportunities, which largely took place outside of a traditional classroom setting, were designed
to overcome a core obstacle in obtaining training—the timing and location of the classes. Some
employers used a “lunch-and-learn” model; frontline workers could learn about a new medicine or
disease-related issue during normal working hours. Another tactic was to include 15-minute collaborative


meetings, or “team huddles,” to learn and share in a wider group. Efforts were made during these group
settings to ensure that medical or nursing assistants felt comfortable sharing their perspectives. Employers
also developed suggested e-learning opportunities because of cost effectiveness and flexibility in
To encourage frontline workers to take advantage of these educational opportunities, the Pioneer
Employers designed salary increases and career ladders around them. UNC set up the Clinical Support
Staff Development Model for the career advancement of frontline workers (Hitachi Foundation undated).
Entry-level nursing assistants (NAIs) have the opportunity to train to become either a nursing assistant II
(NAII) or a clinical support technician (CST) I or II. Other hospital paraprofessional staff such as health
unit coordinators (HUC), stock clerks, and telemetry technicians could train to become CSTs. The first
implementation phase was the development of CST positions on the care team. In the second phase, the
existing NAII staffing role was redefined for the hospital’s highest capacity utilization. Training for both
positions is conducted entirely in-house. Completion of the training garners frontline workers a promotion
and wage increase.
Chesapeake Connections added two new positions to its existing team position career ladder. Team
assistants could be promoted to senior team assistants and case managers could be promoted to team
leaders. Each of these promotions would have an accompanying salary increase. Chesapeake did not
establish a formal training program for these advancements but rather relies on management’s continuous
professional development of staff (Dailey 2011). Mosaic Community Services, Chesapeake’s parent
organization, offers a $0.50 per hour raise to staff members who complete the two-year psychosocial
rehabilitation training certification program at the Community College of Baltimore (Dailey 2011).
Cabin Creek set up a formula for pay increases based on seniority, certification, and training module
completion. A staff member who participates in the Senior Medical Home model receives an additional
$0.25 per hour (Blash et al. 2010). The completion of motivational interview training leads to $0.15 more
per hour (Blash et al. 2010). Medical assistants who become electronic health record “super users” earn
$0.30 more per hour because they now have the expertise to train new staff on the electronic health record
system (Blash et al. 2010). Cabin Creek also provides opportunities for medical assistants to become team
leaders, care coordinators and site managers.
Many of the employers reorganized their leadership and staff structures to support these new training
practices. Franklin Square hired a new nurse educator charged with enhancing interdepartmental
communication and collaboration. The result was a standardized training program for certified medical
assistants. After a senior leadership change, Cabin Creek began to explore the role of medical assistants in
helping to manage chronic disease. The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation provided funding to
Cabin Creek to implement the new training models.


Table 5.2 Frontline Worker Workforce Development Strategy Elements by Case
Cabin Creek
Family Health
UNC Health
Health Systems
Center at
Care System
Franklin Square
Becoming a
Hiring in 2003 of New nurse
Switch to a teammember of
Denise Chatham educator hired in based staffing
changes between as director and
2006 with the
model (registered
2004 and 2006
charge of
nurses with
including new
merger with
enhancing interhigher-skilled
electronic health Community
communication and assistants)
records system,
(Partners in
and chronic
disease initiatives
Strategy 2003
Partners Wellspring
•  Bridgemont
•  Community
•  Community
•  North Carolina
Community and College of
College of
Board of
Baltimore County Nursing
•  Shepard Pratt
•  Medstar Health •  Durham
•  West Virginia
Health System •  Essex
Center on Aging •  Mosaic
•  New River
•  West Virginia
School of
Outcomes •  Family and •  Patient volume •  Service
•  Medication errors •  Retention
•  Cost per patient outcomes
(administration, •  Increased
levels (no. of •  Staff turnover
tions, psychiatric ordering)
•  Better care
falls, burden •  Job satisfaction
hospital days,
•  Agreement by
on health care
certified medical •  Patient
system, use
living, volunteer assistants
of restraints,
(CMAs) with
•  Cost-effective
work or school,
medication safety care
weight loss)
group or skillprogram
•  Worker job
•  Staff morale
building class
•  Advancement
length of
•  Responsibility
sobriety, level of
•  Higher wages
substance abuse,
rate, housing
retention rate)
•  Staff retention


Cabin Creek
Health Systems
Funding •  Monthly
•  Area health
education center
•  Per-bed cost •  Claude
for online
tracking tool Benedum
•  Grant funding
Obstacles •  Considerable •  Buy-in from all
time to
staff levels
•  Grant-funded
•  Acknowfinancing
ledged time •  Time
delay in
management for
training and at•  Staff
home visits
•  Patient boundary
•  Safety


Family Health
UNC Health
Center at
Care System
Franklin Square
Capitated funding •  Self-financed
•  Nursing support
grant from
Maryland Health
Services Cost
Stress from
•  Lack of
merger about job
recognition by
retention and
the organization
retention of
on the importance
unique program
of the CMA role
(low pay, absence
of promotional
•  Coverage during
training sessions
•  Physician buy-in
•  Constant change
of pairings
•  Clear promotion

•  Need to
increase the
supply of
assistant IIs
•  Need to bring
training in

SOURCES: Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute 2010; Blash et al. 2010; Dailey 2011; Blash et al. 2011;
and Hitachi Foundation undated

All the Pioneer Employers recognized the challenge of budgeting for frontline worker training. Over
the span of one fiscal year, UNC spent $200,000 on the training of NAIIs (Hitachi Foundation undated).
Employers who were part of a larger structure of clinics or part of a network (such as UNC, Franklin
Square, and Augsburg) had the most stable funding. For these employers, the training costs were more
likely to be sustained through broader operational budgets that included general education funds. On the
other hand, Chesapeake Connections, which serves a very high-need population, has a stable funding
contract with the State of Maryland to cover client costs, so any additional funds for training are
supplemented by its umbrella organization, Mosaic. Cabin Creek leveraged its designation as an area
health education center to access additional federal funding for training.

Given their status as Pioneer Employers, we expected to see positive outcomes for the frontline
workers resulting from workforce development strategies. These outcomes would include wage increases,
promotions, lower turnover, and greater job satisfaction. According to the available data and anecdotal
information from the cases, however, there were varied outcomes.


Wages and Career Ladders
For UNC’s frontline workers, progress along the clinical support staff development model led to
wage increases for frontline workers of between 8 and 10 percent, depending on work experience (Hitachi
Foundation undated). As of an evaluation completed in June 2013, 72 students have completed the NAII
program, which has a 100 percent completion and graduation rate (UNC Hospitals Division of Nursing
2013). Since the staffing changes were first implemented in 2008, more than 200 staff members now
operate in NAII, CST, unit monitor, or mobility technician roles (Hitachi Foundation undated).
At Franklin Square, completion of medication safety training or the Simlab competency training does
not lead to a salary increase because the training has become a required job competency. While Franklin
Square has not yet created a formal career ladder for medical assistants, several new roles were initiated
for medical assistants with higher levels of compensation, including certified medical assistant team
leader and cross-trained float positions. Mosaic expected six employees to complete the psychological
rehabilitation training certification program in 2011 and receive a pay increase (Dailey 2011). The
changes implemented by Cabin Creek have meant that medical assistants now earn on average $13 to $14
per hour compared to their prior level of $8 per hour (Blash et al. 2010). This wage level does not take
into account any increases due to seniority, certifications, or training module completions. By having
geriatric nursing assistants (GNAs) lead care resource teams (CRTs), Augsburg uses the opportunity to
develop leaders among the GNAs (Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute 2010).

Staff Retention
Chesapeake Connections admits that their organization often serves as a stepping stone for employees
on the path towards higher-paying jobs elsewhere (Dailey 2011). Yet, through their career promotional
ladder and educational benefits, they have been able to keep their retention rates at a “relatively good”
level (Dailey 2011). Through 2011, the average tenure for team assistants was 6.5 years, and most case
managers stay an average of 2.7 years (Dailey 2011). Cabin Creek’s medical assistant retention rates have
also improved from “constant” to “low” turnover (Blash, Dower, and Chapman 2010). In 2009, UNC’s
turnover rate for CSTs was 6.6 percent over four cumulative quarters versus 23.3 percent for NAs and
12.8 percent for HUCs (Hitachi Foundation undated).

Job Satisfaction
Before implementing the Clinical Support Staff Development Model on a wide scale, UNC conducted
a pilot of the CST role in two nursing units followed six months later by an evaluation survey. The survey
responses showed satisfaction with the role and recommended its continuance (Hitachi Foundation
undated). Outside of the model, UNC measures job satisfaction through an annual survey. CMAs at
Franklin Square reported higher levels of empowerment and satisfaction along with greater development
of leadership and teaching skills as a result of the different training initiatives (Blash, Dower, and
Chapman 2011). Based on self-reporting, Cabin Creek’s medical assistants also have greater job
satisfaction than before the program was instituted (Blash, Dower, and Chapman 2010). The biggest
effect at Augsburg has been a sense of empowerment generated among its frontline workers. GNAs feel
more comfortable offering suggestions to the nursing staff about resident care and are confident that their
suggestions will be given consideration (PHI 2010).

While the frontline training implemented by the Pioneer Employers was not primarily focused on
improving the standard of living for frontline workers, the training may influence subsequent career
choices, such as the decision to pursue additional education, often leading to better opportunities.
Interviewees acknowledged that even with assistance programs, very few frontline workers went back to
school to earn a degree. They cited tuition costs, available free time, child care, and transportation


challenges as barriers. Franklin Square noted in the interview that only four medical assistants in the last
three years have graduated with a nursing degree or a bachelor’s degree in another subject.
UNC and Franklin Square offer the most tuition assistance and flexibility for staff to further their
education. Career development/continuing education programs open to UNC employees include academic
assistance reimbursement (maximum of 20 semester credit hours per fiscal year), waiver of student fees,
and tuition waiver at state universities (two courses per academic year) (UNC Health Care HR Services
Department 2014). At Franklin Square, CMAs are eligible for a minimum of $3,000 per year in tuition
reimbursement, lab fees, books, and other educational expenses based on the length of their employment
(Blash, Dower, and Chapman 2011). CMAs interested in pursuing a nursing career may also take
advantage of a nursing program offered jointly by Franklin Square Hospital Center and the Community
College of Baltimore County. Upon completion of the program, CMAs are eligible to be rehired at
Franklin Square as nurses (Blash, Dower, and Chapman 2011). Chesapeake employees through Mosaic’s
programs are eligible for tuition reimbursement of up to $300 per semester for work-related courses
(Dailey 2011). Continuing education and medical education courses are available to licensed and certified
employees through Mosaic’s relationship with the Shepard Pratt Health System in Baltimore.

Given recent projections for the coming decade, health care organizations need to prepare for a
significant increase in demand for services. It will mean a substantial expansion in employment in the
health care industry. The majority of these new jobs are not in high-paying medical provider positions,
but in low-paying positions such as orderlies and medical and nursing assistants. Due to their significant
contact with patients, these positions have a direct impact on organizational efficiency and quality of care.
Implementation of workforce development strategies aimed at frontline workers has produced reports of
improved worker performance and satisfaction and lower staff turnover. There has also been advancement
along newly established frontline worker career ladders. Health care organizations are seeing benefits to
their operations, but in these organizations, workers rarely complete educational credentials that would
give them access to higher-paying jobs.
Interviewees stated that the strategies of team-based operational groups and informal training
opportunities could be applied to other industry sectors, such as food services, manufacturing, and retail.
These are sectors where frontline workers play a role in customer satisfaction but are not currently
integrated into broader operational teams. This raises the question of whether there would be even greater
barriers to upward mobility for frontline workers in non-health-care sectors. Given the forecasted future
demand for registered nurses, opportunities will exist for higher-wage positions in health care, but
effectively getting frontline workers the credentials needed for these positions remains an open question.

American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Research. 2013. 2013 State of the Industry
Blash, Lisel, Catherine Dower, and Susan Chapman. 2010. Cabin Creek Health Systems— Medical
Assistants Provide a Senior Medical Home. San Francisco, CA: Center for Health Professions,
University of California, San Francisco, November.
(accessed on January 10, 2014).
___, ___, and ___. 2011. Franklin Square Hospital Center – Medication Safety Initiative Empowers
Medical Assistants. San Francisco, CA: Center for Health Professions, University of California,
San Francisco, September. (accessed on January 10,


Carnevale, Anthony, Jeff Strohl, and Artem Gulish. 2015. “College Is Just the Beginning: Employers’
Role in the $1.1 Trillion Postsecondary Education and Training System.” Washington, DC:
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
Dailey, Wayne F. 2011. Pacesetter Case Study: Mosaic Community Services – Chesapeake Connections,
Baltimore, Maryland, 2011 Pacesetter Award Program of Merit. Annapolis, MD: Annapolis Coalition
on the Behavioral Health Workforce.
Henderson, Richard. 2013. “Industry employment and output projections to 2022.” Monthly Labor
Review, December. Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(accessed on April 25, 2014).
Hitachi Foundation. 2010. “Pioneer Employers Initiative—The Hitachi Foundation. (accessed on March 23, 2014).
___. Undated. Pioneer Employer Hospitals: Getting Ahead by Growing Your Own, Case Study: UNC
Health Care. Washington, DC: (accessed
on January 10, 2014).
Lerman, Robert I., Signe-Mary McKernan, and Stephanie Riegg. 2004. “The Scope of EmployerProvided Training in the United States: Who, What, Where, and How Much?” In Job Training Policy
in the United States, Christopher J. O’Leary, Robert A. Straits, and Stephen A. Wander, eds.
Kalamazoo, MI: W.W. Upjohn Institute, pp. 211–244. (accessed on May 1, 2014).
Levine, Jonathan, Mark Popovich, and Tom Strong. 2013. Doing Well and Doing Good: Pioneer
Employers Discover Profits and Deliver Opportunity for Frontline Workers. Washington, DC: The
Hitachi Foundation. (accessed on
July 7, 2016).
Maguire, Sheila, Joshua Freely, Maureen Conway, and Deena Schwartz. 2010. “Tuning In To Local
Labor Markets: Findings from the Sectoral Employment Impact Study.” Philadelphia, PA:
Public/Private Ventures.
Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI). 2010. “Best Practices: Augsburg Lutheran Home.” Bronx,
NY: PHI, December. (accessed on
February 7, 2014)
Richards, Emily, and Dave Terkanian. 2013. “Occupational employment projections to 2022.” Monthly
Labor Review, December. Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (accessed
on April 25, 2014).
UNC Health Care HR Service Department. 2014. Career Development/Continuing Education Programs.
Chapel Hill, NC: June. (accessed
on July 3, 2014).
UNC Hospitals Division of Nursing. 2013. Carolina Nursing, 2013 Fiscal Year Nursing Annual Report.
Chapel Hill, NC: October. (accessed on April 3, 2014).
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2014. “Healthcare Occupations.” Occupational Outlook Handbook.
January 8. (accessed on March 23, 2014).


Transforming Lives for People with Criminal
Records through Demand Skill Training and
Job Placement
Victor Dickson
Safer Foundation
Harry Alston Jr.
Safer Foundation
More than 1 in 10 Americans are currently behind bars, the highest incarceration rate of any nation in
the world. The U.S. prison population is also among the lowest in terms of socioeconomic status. U.S.
inmates are typically unemployed before imprisonment, are frequently without educational qualifications,
and have poor literacy and numeracy skills.
Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility finds that incarceration exacerbates
these problems by its enduring negative impact upon the ability of ex-offenders to find, retain, and
advance in employment, which in turn stunts the economic mobility of those with felony records (Pew
Charitable Trust 2010). Serving time reduces hourly wages for men by approximately 11 percent, annual
employment by 9 weeks, and annual earnings by 40 percent. Hughes and Wilson (2002); Culhane,
Metraux, and Hadley (2002); and Travis (2005), among others, have found that these collateral impacts
weigh heavily on communities into which ex-offenders or “returning citizens” find themselves struggling
with even greater burdens of mental illness, homelessness, educational deficits, limited employment
opportunities, and other “invisible sanctions.” Researchers often find that these individuals are relegated
to a permanent second-class status, particularly in the workforce (Mauer and Chesney-Lind 2002,
Alexander 2010).

Safer Foundation (Safer), a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, was founded in 1972 as an
advocate for individuals with criminal records in their efforts to obtain employment following release
from prison or jail. Its mission is to reduce recidivism by supporting, through a full spectrum of services,
the efforts of people with criminal records to become employed, law-abiding members of the community.
Safer has developed a range of programs and services designed to address these needs. Serving
approximately 10,000 individuals annually, Safer is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of
services designed exclusively for those with criminal records. The underlying premise of Safer’s approach
to reducing recidivism is that “work works.” If people with criminal records are to successfully reenter
mainstream society, they must be able to get a job and earn a living wage.

Despite high unemployment rates, the majority of national and local manufacturers report difficulty in
finding skilled workers. A recent survey of manufacturing firms found that 67 percent of respondents felt
there was a moderate to severe shortage of available qualified workers, and that 5 percent of current jobs
at respondent manufacturers are unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates (Deloitte Consulting LLP


and the Manufacturing Institute 2011). When it comes to machining and similar jobs, 45 percent of firms
reported a serious shortage, 38 percent a moderate shortage, and 12 percent some shortage. Sixty-nine
percent of companies expected this shortage to worsen in the next three to five years.
The Council on Competitiveness and other organizations have turned attention towards solving skills
gaps to promote national economic growth. The organization proposes that meeting this challenge will
create jobs, reduce unemployment, and stimulate the U.S. economy through the production of goods and
services (Council on Competitiveness 2011). In 2012, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
issued its general education policy promoting a system of industry-recognized skills credentials as
necessary to reform education and training for 21st-century manufacturing, including nationally portable
credentials that validate the attainment of critical competencies required by industry. In a more recent
study, Osterman and Weaver (2014) find that the impact of skills shortages in manufacturing are real but
that the skills that manufacturers seek are within reach of a majority of Americans through training at
community colleges. However, for citizens returning from incarceration, low wages and persistent
unemployment remain formidable challenges along their path to successful reentry. Manufacturing jobs
are ideal opportunities for many returning from incarceration. Likewise, the reentering population, with
training, could help meet the needs of firms with skilled labor shortages.
Safer Foundation works through multi-stakeholder collaborations to create reentry programs that aim
to solve two serious problems in Chicago: first, the need for employment for returning citizens and,
second, the need for local manufacturers to address a shortage of skilled workers such as computer
numerical control (CNC) machining workers, audiovisual equipment technicians, and welders, among
others. In the last couple of years, Safer has successfully implemented a CNC training program and a
customized audiovisual technology training program. CNC machine operators program, set up, load,
operate, and monitor the progress of automated machinery. This training program combines state-of-theart online instruction with extensive hands-on laboratory experience. Trainees earn nationally recognized
fully portable credentials from the National Institute for Metal Working Skills (NIMS). Job placement
operates through several extensive networks of manufacturing companies. Safer’s audiovisual technical
training program provides Microsoft certification and hands-on training in audiovisual equipment repair
and maintenance leading to job placement in the service centers of a large retail chain.
The objectives of these programs are for graduates to experience long-term retention in careers with
family-sustaining compensation (Safer 2012). These programs will lead to employment outcomes for
more than 300 persons with criminal records.

This study focuses on high-skills training programs for residents of Safer’s adult transition centers
(ATCs) operated under contract with the Illinois Department of Corrections. ATCs offer a secured
residential transitional living environment where incarcerated individuals who meet certain offense and
good behavior criteria may serve out the last three to 24 months of their sentences. Opened in 1983,
Crossroads ATC has a bed capacity of 380, while North Lawndale ATC opened in 2000 with a bed
capacity of 208. The ATCs together serve approximately 1,300 clients per year, with an average stay of
15 months. The CNC training is comprised of 60 hours of instruction delivered at Crossroads on virtual
software and 180 hours of hands-on instruction at City of Chicago’s Daley College/Arturo Velasquez
Institute. The first cohort of 17 persons was launched in March 2013; they completed training in October
2013. The program has run subsequent cohorts since. The audiovisual technical training is comprised of
16 weeks of instruction delivered onsite at a community-based classroom setting (eight weeks) and the
technical service center (eight weeks) of the employer partner. Classroom training includes job-readiness
training, computer skills, computer repair and maintenance, and audiovisual equipment repair and
maintenance. The service center training includes tools, theories, safety, techniques, and troubleshooting
of audiovisual equipment. It also provides paid on-the-job training in the repair and maintenance of


These programs have their origins in discussions extending back to 2010 to build a strategy to address
the pressing skills gaps in manufacturing along with reducing the recidivism rates of people with criminal
records through meaningful employment.1 The resulting collaborations were implemented beginning in
2012 and include the following partners: the Safer Foundation, Manufacturing Renaissance, NIMS, City
Colleges of Chicago, Manufacturing Works, the Chicago Community Trust, and employer and training

The collaborating partners for this training program have well-earned expertise in workforce and
community economic development, employment and re-entry services for people with criminal records,
and manufacturing resurgence. Collectively, they assert these fundamental propositions:2
1.   Skills trump criminal records—sufficient market demand will overcome reluctance to hire.
2.   A holistic approach is necessary to address the variety of challenges people face in reentry.
3.   Students must be motivated and driven for success.
4.   The instructor must be able to teach across broad academic and social backgrounds and learning
5.   It is necessary to hold the belief that people can make better decisions that mean a better life for
the individual and his or her family.

Evidence from the Case
The results for the program have been quite strong. For both training programs, the results have met
or exceeded funder and organizational objectives (see table 6.1). One funder invested in the CNC and
audiovisual program initiatives because they addressed value for clients (technical skills training and
increased career earning potential), value to employers (skilled employees and increased productivity),
and value to society (reduction in net unemployment, taxes, and public benefit savings) (J. Lewis,
personal interview, April 21, 2014).



Table 6.1
CNC Training

Goals and Objectives
Outcome 1:
Provide 30 individuals with criminal
records with training and employment.
At least 80 percent of the participants
will complete the training program.
Outcome 2: 999
At least 70 percent of participants (17)
who complete the training will secure
employment and 70 percent of
participants (12) who secure
employment will retain employment for
30 days.
Outcome 3:
At least 70 percent of participants (8)
who reach the 30-day retention
benchmark will achieve 90-day job
retention and 60 percent (7) will
achieve 180-day job retention

Audio Visual

Outcome 1:
Provide 25 veterans who have criminal
records with training and employment.
At least 80 percent of the participants
will complete the training program.
Outcome 2:
At least 70 percent of participants (14)
who complete the training will secure
employment and 70 percent of
participants (10) who secure
employment will retain employment for
30 days.


Outcomes and Results
Outcome 1:
Thirty-six persons have been enrolled
with an expectation of achieving at least
two NIMS credentials.
Thirty-two persons have completed
Outcome 2:
Nineteen persons have secured
Nineteen individuals have achieved 30day job retention.
Outcome 3:
Fifteen persons have achieved 90-days
job retention.
Eleven individuals have achieved 180-day
job retention.
Average costs per client: $8572.00
Average entry salary of $13.45/hour plus
Outcome 1:
Twenty-five persons have been enrolled
with an expectation of achieving
technology certifications. Twenty persons
completed training.
Outcome 2:
Seventeen persons were placed in
employment and achieved 30-day job
retention in full-time employment with
benefits. Sixteen persons remain
Average cost per client: approximately
(Note: for the new program, projected
client earnings are $22,000–$28,000 with
benefits, and the requested average cost
per client will be $3,750.

Department of
Training to
Work FY 2013

Goals and Objectives
Outcomes and Results
For the FY 13 Department of Labor Training to Work program, to date, 40 clients
have completed or are currently enrolled in training programs and there have been 20
job placements. Presently, one veteran participates in the program. Other outcomes
include family reunification for one client, restructuring of child support payments
for one client, placement of one client into residential treatment/housing postrelease,
enrollment in or completion of GED preparation by three clients, who are awaiting
testing, and enrollment of one client in a second vocational training certification
Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC), the training partner, is a workforce
development nonprofit that specializes in manufacturing. The agency uses the sector
model to place hard-to-employ people in an industry with labor market research
demonstrating growth. JARC is able to achieve an overall 90 percent success rate in
training, placing, and retaining individuals with criminal backgrounds in trainingrelated industries. JARC sees a window of opportunity for people with criminal
backgrounds when they seek out training because employment is a significant
predictor in reducing recidivism. Although the Illinois recidivism rate is 50 percent,
the recidivism rate for JARC graduates is 10 percent.

SOURCES: Final Narrative Report to Chicago Community Trust on the CNC Program (Grant Number
C2012-0039, June 20, 2014); Safer Workforce Development Grant Proposal for Audio Visual Technical
Training (December 31, 2013); and internal progress memorandum for the Department of Labor Training
to Work grant program (email correspondences—M. Brown, Safer Foundation, July 14, 2014, and J.
Newsome, JARC, July 15, 2014.

These programs share critical design elements: (1) dedicated classroom training components—for
example, virtual CNC, online training; (2) real-time hands-on equipment and machine training; (3)
comprehensive case management (a client-centered collaborative process of assessment, evaluation,
service coordination, and advocacy to meet an individual’s reentry needs and facilitate selfdetermination); and (4) extensive industry-focused employment supports (that is, mentoring by industry
mentors, placement services leveraging existing manufacturing industry relationships, employment
retention driven by the partners’ deep expertise in facilitating and strengthening relationships between
employees and employers). In addition, participants had to meet reading and math proficiency levels, pass
a series of screening interviews, and complete job-readiness training. These screening requirements
helped to ensure that participants were prepared for the technical training.

Stakeholder Perspectives
This case reflects the commitment of Safer and partners to improving communities by using
manufacturing as a vehicle to create community wealth and leveraging in-demand skills training to
overcome the impacts of mass incarceration. The perspectives of stakeholders indicate that the program
design works. Remove any one element and the program may not work. The participants worked very
hard, gained skills and certifications, and molded themselves into a team across dimensions of age, race,
and culture to care for one another and work toward everyone’s completion. Clients like that the program
offers a chance to do better than live check to check. The employer partners are very satisfied with the
students they have hired. The good results make it look simpler than it really is—it takes really strong and
complementary partners to succeed.3


The results of these programs are built upon key success factors. These factors are committed partners
with a history of working together, highly skilled staff for all aspects of the program, well-designed
technical training, comprehensive case management and client life supports, and employer involvement.
Diane Williams, president emeritus, Safer Foundation, reflects, “We know that sustainable job pathways
aligned with real market demand can create the types of opportunities that allow returning citizens to
make a meaningful contribution to their families and communities. These programs affirm that having the
right partners, with the right goals, and getting the details defined early on is a formula for success. It is
also beneficial that manufacturing is one resurging industry that is receptive to hiring our clients”
(Williams, personal interview, April 28, 2014).
Among the long-term unemployed are millions of people with criminal records. The U.S. Bureau of
Justice Statistics reports that 637,400 people were released from prisons around the nation in 2012
(Carson & Golinelli 2013). They return to our communities with the stigma of a criminal record as a
barrier to employment. One silver lining is the demand for semi-skilled and skilled workers. Even people
with criminal records find themselves in high demand, if they possess the requisite skills and industryrecognized credentials. Programs like this make America more competitive in the global economy by
bringing men and women into the workforce, enabling employers to grow their businesses, breaking the
cycle of poverty, and strengthening communities. It is rare when a program benefits so many diverse
stakeholders—business and industry, individuals needing a second chance, their families, and, indirectly,
many others.

Alexander, M. 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York:
The New Press.
Carson, E. and D. Golinelli. 2013. Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admission and Release, 1991–2012.
Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics December 2013.
Council on Competitiveness, U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative. 2011. Make: An American
Manufacturing Movement. Washington, DC.
Culhane, D., S. Metraux, and T. Hadley. 2002. “The impact of supportive housing homeless people with
severe mental illness on the utilization of public health, corrections and shelter systems: The New
York Initiative.”Housing Policy Debate 13(1): 107–163.
Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Manufacturing Institute. 2011. Boiling Point: The Skills Gap in US
Manufacturing. Washington, DC.
Hughes and Wilson. 2002. Reentry Trends in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Mauer, Marc and Meda Chesney-Lind. 2002. Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of
Mass Imprisonment. New York: The New York Press.
National Association of Manufacturers,, accessed 01/12/12.
Osterman, P. and A. Weaver. 2014. “Why Claims of Skills Shortages in Manufacturing Are Overblown.”
Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief #376. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.
The Pew Charitable Trust. 2010. Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility,
Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trust.


Safer Foundation. 2012. Collaborative on Reentry Advantage CNC Skill Training. Concept Paper.
Travis, J. 2005. But They All Come Back: Facing Challenges of Prisoner Reentry. Washington, DC: The
Urban Institute Press.

The program was conceptualized in early 2010 in discussions among Safer Foundation President B.
Diane Williams and David Pfleger (Thornton Pfleger Inc), James Wall (National Institute for Metal
Working Skills–NIMS), and Dan Swinney (Center for Labor and Community Research, presently
Manufacturing Renaissance). In late 2011, Jim Lewis, senior program officer, the Chicago Community
Trust, invited Safer Foundation, Jane Addams Resource Center, Manufacturing Renaissance, and North
Lawndale Employment Network to a conversation to explore funding programs that could lead to careers
in technical arts and metal-working occupations and thus address the Trust’s interest in both workforce
development and offender reentry.

These critical program assumptions were derived from several conversations with key architects of
these strategies: D. Pfleger (TPI), personal interview, April 15, 2014; R. Prendergast (Daley College),
personal interview, April 14, 2014; J. Lewis (Chicago Community Trust), personal interview, April 21,
2014; J. Wall (NIMS), telephone interview, April 23, 2014; D. Swinney (Manufacturer’s Renaissance),
personal interview, April 25, 2014; D. Williams (Safer Foundation), personal interview, April 28, 2014.

The stakeholder perspectives reflect conversations with the full breadth of stakeholders involved in
these initiatives. R. Prendergast (Daley College), April 14, 2014, personal interview; D. Pfleger, (TPI),
personal interview, April 15, 2014; J. Lewis (Chicago Community Trust), personal interview, April 21,
2014; J. Wall (NIMS), telephone interview, April 23, 2014; S. Ross-Taylor (Safer CNC program staff),
personal interview, April 24, 2014; V. Scott, (Safer CNC program staff), personal interview, April 24,
2014; B. Holmes (CNC program graduate), personal interview, April 24, 2014; D. Swinney
(Manufacturer’s Renaissance, personal interview, April 25, 2014; D. Williams (Safer Foundation),
personal interview, April 28, 2014; B. Redd (NIMS), personal correspondence, April 28, 2014); J. Butler
(Safer Foundation), telephone interview, April 30, 2014.




Case Study:
Miami Dade College’s Hospitality Institute—
Training and Job Placing for the
Rolando Montoya
Miami Dade College
Shelly Fano
The Hospitality Institute, Miami Dade College
Miami is a metropolis with more than 2.6 million inhabitants according to the U.S. Census Bureau
(2014). Because of its geographic location, weather, beauty, and vibrant cosmopolitan atmosphere, the
city attracts immigrants from across the United States and the world. Wealthy individuals are attracted by
the allure of ocean-front living, sophisticated financial services, gourmet restaurants, year-round cultural
events, and the absence of state income tax. Designated as one of the significant post–World War II
foreign immigrant gateways by the Brookings Institution, Miami has a population that is nearly 60
percent foreign born.
Poor individuals also arrive in Miami in search of new horizons. Refugees from foreign nations under
political and economic turmoil come in search of freedom, stability, and opportunity. Homeless
individuals from different parts of the country also come to the city, attracted by its warm temperatures
and anecdotes about the effective continuum of services offered by multiple organizations dedicated to
eradicating homelessness. The homeless and the refugees, populations that are not mutually exclusive,
join other low-income groups already present in Miami, such as the long-term unemployed and the
residents of inner-city neighborhoods. To an extent, Miami has become a tale of two cities: one
community composed of immigrants and natives with tremendous resources and the other composed of
poor natives, refugees, and homeless individuals, all with employment difficulties.
Florida hosts the largest refugee population in the nation. The state received more than 29,000
refugees in 2013, of whom 20,203 settled in Miami. The Florida Department of Children and Families
(2013) tracked the country of origin for refugees in Miami: 19,900 from Cuba, 178 from Haiti, 65 from
Venezuela, 17 from Colombia, 9 from Iraq, and 34 from other nations. The refugee demographics mirror
the population composition of the Miami metropolitan area, which includes more than 850,000 Cubans,
200,000 Haitians, 115,000 Colombians, and 47,000 Venezuelans (Miami-Dade County 2011). The
challenge for the workforce development system is the provision of meaningful employment
opportunities to the newly arrived refugees, who often lack English language fluency, job and life skills,
documentation, social networks, and permanent places to live.
The last homeless census, conducted in Miami in January 2014, shows that there were 4,156
homeless in the city; 3,316 were sheltered and 840 were unsheltered. This represents a 9 percent increase
in homelessness from January 2013, when 3,802 homeless individuals were counted (Miami-Dade
County 2014). The median income in Miami is one of the lowest in the nation. Moderate-income
households in Miami have the lowest house affordability index because housing consumes 40 percent and


transportation 32 percent of their income (Hickey et al. 2012). This low level of housing affordability,
coupled with the economic crisis that started in 2008, contributed to a large number of mortgage
foreclosures and evictions. Many Miamians have experienced or were on the verge of homelessness. The
homeless population confronts many barriers to employment, including a history of imprisonment, mental
health issues, lack of critical documentation, poor work experience, educational and skills deficits, and
limited social and employment networks (National Coalition for the Homeless 2009). As in the case of
the refugees, the community of Miami needs to engage in collective action to address the homelessness
situation, including the development of targeted training programs and an increase in access to
employment opportunities that can lend themselves to self-sustainability.

Miami Dade College (MDC) is the largest public institution of higher education in the nation,
currently serving more than 165,000 students annually. For 54 years, MDC has acted as an economic
engine for Miami by providing postsecondary education and workforce development programs to more
than 2 million individuals who have enrolled in courses. Known as “democracy’s college,” MDC grants
the largest number of associate’s degrees in the United States and produces the largest number of African
American and Hispanic graduates in the nation. The institution offers more than 300 academic and
workforce development pathways that lead to associate and baccalaureate degrees and shorter-term
certificates. These programs are accessible and affordable, and meet the needs of diverse students,
including refugees, the homeless, and other low-income individuals. MDC embraces its responsibility to
serve as an economic, cultural, and civic beacon in the community and catalyzed the Hospitality Institute
(HI) as a response to the need for quick training to meet the needs of newly arriving immigrants and
residents experiencing homelessness.

The hospitality industry in Miami has grown enormously during the last few years. In 2013 alone, the
city received 4.2 million overnight visitors, who spent $22.8 billion locally (Greater Miami Convention &
Visitors Bureau 2014a). Statistics for the first quarter of 2014 indicate an annual increase in Port of
Miami passengers of 13.5 percent, an increase in the average daily hotel rate of 13.6 percent, and an
increase in leisure and hospitality jobs of 4.2 percent, all of which contributed to an accumulation of
117,300 jobs in this industry (Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau 2014b). Because of this
continuous growth, hospitality was selected as one of the seven targeted industries by the local economic
development agency, the Beacon Council, and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, under the One
Community One Goal initiative (Beacon Council 2014). New hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions
have experienced staff shortages due to the increase in demand for services. Miami Dade College
responded to this shortage with the opening of the Miami International Hospitality and Culinary Center to
offer comprehensive training in these fields. The Hospitality Institute is a unit within the center that
initiated operations in 2007 to serve the homeless, the refugees, and other low-income populations. Many
individuals from these populations are perceived as unemployable and feel trapped, hopeless, and unable
to see beyond their existing situation. The Hospitality Institute provides a bridge to a new beginning.
Entry-level jobs at hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions do not require sophisticated skills and
constitute an opportunity for those who need a transition into the labor force.
The initial investment and the recurrent operational funding for the Hospitality Institute came from
the City of Miami’s Southeast Overtown Parkwest Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA). The
CRA’s mission of revitalizing its areas of service by expanding training and employment opportunities,
promoting economic development, and improving quality of life made it an integral partner for this
project. The missions of MDC and the CRA are very congruent.
The Hospitality Institute is physically located at the Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church in Overtown, an
inner-city neighborhood where many unemployed individuals from the underprivileged targeted


populations live. On a quarterly basis, the HI offers its primary four-day job-readiness workshops to
develop skills in various lodging and restaurant operations, customer service, computer usage, financial
literacy, and life skills. The training also facilitates employability success by incorporating units in
resume writing, appropriate dress code, and interview skills. At the end of this basic program, the
participants take an exam, and upon a successful pass rate, obtain the Safe Staff Food Safety Certification,
mandated by the State of Florida for all food handlers. The program is offered in English, but since many
of the instructors are bilingual, support in Spanish is given to those with English language limitations. In
addition to instruction, the program provides employment opportunities through referrals.
Quarterly job fairs are conducted in partnership with industry organizations such as the Greater
Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Greater Miami and Beaches Hotel Association, and the Florida
Restaurant and Lodging Association. Numerous employers are attracted to these fairs. The jobs offer
wages between minimum wage and $12 per hour and include positions such as front desk agent, cashier,
host/hostess, waiter/waitress, bus person, housekeeping, lobby door assistant, and laundry attendant.
While the wages are low relative to other jobs in Miami, the clientele represent people who have been out
of the labor force and are some of the hardest to employ.
Since its inception, the Hospitality Institute has trained more than 2,000 clients and has facilitated the
employment of more than 700 of them. We consider the achieved job placement rate of 38 percent for the
quarterly workshop participants as a success, given the employability barriers affecting the homeless,
refugees, and other underprivileged populations. As a point of comparison, the overall employment rate
for MDC graduates in hospitality programs is 81.25 percent. To support those confronting difficult
employment barriers, the HI provides referral services: those with limited language skills are referred to
the English-as-a-second-language program offered at MDC for refugees at no cost, clients with health
issues are referred to medical clinics serving the poor, and graduates with conviction records are referred
to agencies that help with the expungement process. Hospitality Institute administrators also advocate
before employers the possibility of granting opportunities to individuals who made some mistakes in the
past but are currently rehabilitated.
The success of the Hospitality Institute has attracted the support of additional donors who have
provided the necessary funding for sustainability and expansion. Significant financial contributions have
been received from employers, foundations, and government organizations, including Hilton Worldwide,
Walmart, Carnival Cruise Foundation, Braman Foundation, and CareerSource South Florida, the local
workforce investment board. The local organizations serving the homeless, the refugees, and other lowincome groups feel very comfortable referring clients they pre-screen to the program. Many professionals
from the hospitality industry have volunteered a significant number of hours to serve as instructors,
coaches, and mentors. With these additional resources, the Hospitality Institute is now providing
supplementary learning opportunities to its alumni, including a four-week intensive training on hotel
“front-of-the-house” and “back-of-the-house” positions leading to nationally recognized industry
certifications that allow employment with salaries of $12 per hour.
Starting in mid-2013, the Hospitality Institute added an additional workforce development
opportunity: a 12-week basic culinary arts program. Chef instructors have taught five cohorts with a total
of 85 participants, a 95 percent completion rate, and a robust 83 percent job placement rate. These
completion and employment rates compare to the ones achieved by MDC college credit students in
hospitality and culinary arts programs. This is contributing to satisfy the high demand in Miami for entrylevel cook positions. Jobs obtained by the graduates include banquet, buffet, hospital, line, pastry, pizza,
prep, and production cooks; baristas; baker and sous chef assistants; and food purchasing assistants.
Beginning salaries range from $9 to $14 per hour.
The Hospitality Institute has also caught the attention of the federal government. The Economic
Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce has recently awarded a grant to
remodel the historic Ebenezer Methodist Church, also in Overtown, into a multi-purpose community


center that will permit the Hospitality Institute to operate a state-of-the-art banquet facility, a catering
kitchen, and an incubator for local food entrepreneurs.

Miami Dade College’s experience with the Hospitality Institute has important policy and practical
implications. Community colleges, as open-access institutions and engines of social mobility, need to
identify those segments of the population who are underprivileged and underserved. These groups include
the homeless, refugees, long-term unemployed, youth coming out of foster care, inner-city residents, and
others. It is also important that community colleges provide workforce education and training to these
populations in areas of high job demand in partnership with the employers. MDC’s Hospitality Institute
addresses the needs of an important local industry, but the college is also responding to the needs of the
other industries targeted by the One Community One Goal effort, including aviation, creative design (with
such fields as marketing, art, architecture, and engineering), financial services, information technology,
life science, and trade and logistics. The Hospitality Institute’s model is being considered to deliver
training in other fields that require moderate skills, such as retailing, software applications, and home care
Community colleges can also act as catalysts to coordinate the efforts of local, state, and federal
governments in the development of effective workforce development programs for underserved
populations. The Hospitality Institute has implemented a best practice in this area by facilitating a
symbiotic relationship between the local community redevelopment agency, the state and local workforce
development board, and the federal Economic Development Administration. Moreover, the partnership
with the public entities has been expanded to include business and industry, churches, community service
organizations, and philanthropic foundations. The key for success is coordinated collective action to
satisfy the employment demand by the local industry while preparing low-income individuals for the
available jobs.
MDC, in partnership with Hilton Hotels of Central Florida and other entities, is facilitating the
development of a similar institute in Orlando. The Hospitality Institute is certainly a replicable model
transferable to other industries and locations.

Beacon Council Foundation. 2014. One Community One Goal Reports & Information. Miami, FL:
Beacon Council Foundation. (accessed June 14, 2014).
Florida Department of Children & Families. 2013. Florida’s Refugee and Entrant Arrivals Statistical
Report. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Department of Children & Families.
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. 2014a. What Does Your CVB in 2014? Miami, FL:
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
___. 2014b. What’s Happening @ Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau? Miami, FL: Greater
Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. (accessed June 14, 2014).
Hickey, R., J. Lubell, P. Haas, S. Morse. 2012. Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income
Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation. Washington, DC: Center for
Housing Policy. Chicago, IL: Center for Neighborhood Technology.
Miami-Dade County. 2014. Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust Census. Miami, FL: Miami-Dade
___. 2011. Hispanics by Country of Origin in Miami-Dade. Miami, FL: Miami-Dade County.


National Coalition for the Homeless. 2009. Employment and Homelessness. Washington, DC: National
Coalition for the Homeless. (accessed May 25,
U.S. Census Bureau. 2014. Miami-Dade County Quick Facts from the US Census Bureau. Washington,
DC: U.S. Census Bureau.,12 (accessed May 18,