Program To Prepare Connecticut Workers For High-Wage, In-Demand Jobs Gets High Mark in External Evaluation
Arlington, Va. – Connecticut community colleges and universities have given workers more options when it comes to preparing for high-wage, in-demand jobs in health and life sciences fields. CNA Education evaluated the Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative (HL-SCI), which was implemented by a Consortium of five community colleges, two state universities and local workforce investment boards. The statewide grant initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, focused on recruiting and training veterans and workers who are unemployed, underemployed or displaced by foreign trade.
"It's great to hear that Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) is working hard to train and prepare Connecticut residents, especially veterans, unemployed and underemployed, for jobs that are currently in demand," said Mark Ojakian, President of the CSCU. "This is exactly what we should be doing. I commend all of the staff who has been dedicated to this program's success."
HL-SCI developed new health and life science certificate and associate’s degree programs and revised previously existing programs. The new and revised programs incorporate 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.
"We evaluated two sets of goals for the HL-SCI program – one set related to the implementation of the program and one set related to student outcomes," said Dr. Christine Mokher, senior research scientist for CNA Education. "Our research found that the grant greatly expanded access to HL-SCI programs by nearly doubling its goal for the number of participants served from 2,700 to 4,530. Twenty new certificate and degree programs were added and the grant greatly increased the availability of academic supports such as online booster modules that provide supplemental instruction to help students succeed."
HL-SCI Implementation Findings
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 method through which to learn course material.
- Online and hybrid courses - Most participants preferred in-person courses to online and hybrid formats because in-person courses allow 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.
HL-SCI 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 credit 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.
"As principal investigator for this ambitious grant, it has been exciting to watch the transformative effect this grant has had on our community colleges, both in terms of bringing forth new and revised certificate and associate’s degree programs and in terms of introducing new eLearning tools for students," said Dr. David Levinson, President of Norwalk Community College. "We will be working hard to sustain and build upon the success of this grant in the years to come. I also want to thank CNA for their thorough and comprehensive evaluation of our work. Through their efforts, we can evaluate our success and modify our work moving forward based upon their findings."
HL-SCI was funded from September 2012 to March 2016 through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Liza Cordeiro, CNA Education Senior Marketing Advisor
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