The Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative (HL-SCI) developed a program to recruit and train veterans and workers who were unemployed, underemployed, or displaced by foreign trade. The program, funded by a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, aimed to give workers more opportunities to prepare for high-wage, in-demand jobs in the health and life sciences fields.
HL-SCI developed new health and life science certificates and associate’s degree programs and revised previously existing programs. The new and revised programs incorporated several core components, including online and hybrid courses; booster modules; a standardized prior learning assessment system to award students credit for prior noncredit coursework, training, and knowledge; and enhanced job and internship placement services.
CNA Education served as a third-party evaluator for the program, examining the program’s implementation and its effect on student outcomes. The evaluation found that the grant greatly expanded access to HL-SCI programs and increased the availability of academic supports, such as online booster modules that provide supplemental instruction to help students succeed.
The implementation component of the evaluation examined opportunities for and barriers to success in the program based on feedback collected through interviews, focus groups, and student surveys. Key findings include:
- Program enrollment and recruitment: Most students learned about their programs independently, although those who did learn about their programs from faculty or staff members at the college found this input to be very influential in their decision to enroll.
- Math and science booster modules: Most students who had taken booster modules found them useful because they provided another means of learning course material.
- Online and hybrid courses: Most participants preferred in-person courses to online and hybrid formats, because in-person courses allowed for more interaction between students and professors. Some students appreciated online courses because they were convenient and allowed students to complete content at their own pace.
- Prior learning assessments (PLA): Most students believed that the PLA process was easy to understand, accorded them the right amount of credit, and enabled them to complete their programs more quickly.
- Employment and placement services: Students liked that clinical experiences were hands-on and allowed them to apply what they had learned in the classroom. Most students found employment and placement services helpful, although some students expressed the need for additional career guidance.
Student Outcome Findings
CNA Education also explored the impact of the HL-SCI program on student academic outcomes, including college persistence, credential completion, and credit accumulation. The analysis used matching techniques to compare the outcomes of HL-SCI participants with those of participants in the same or similar programs at their colleges prior to the start of the grant. The results indicate that:
- HL-SCI participants and comparison students performed similarly on all outcomes after one and two years of program participation.
- HL-SCI participants in science programs completed approximately one to two courses fewer than HL-SCI participants in all programs after two years of program enrollment.
- HL-SCI participants who received PLA credits were more likely to complete a credential within one or two years than participants without PLA credits.
- HL-SCI participants who received PLA credits were less likely to persist after the first year than participants without PLA credits.
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