Pima Community College (PCC) is one of only six community colleges in the nation to be selected for the inaugural cohort of the Education Design Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund.
PCC’s project for the cohort will focus on training unemployed and underemployed southern Arizonans so they can find jobs in important sectors of the region’s economy.
PCC will prepare workers to meet demand from industrial, technology, and defense employers in southern Arizona. PCC is committed to enrolling at least 600 learners across three micro-pathways over two years in Advanced Manufacturing, Building and Construction Trades, and Information Technology.
Education Design Lab (EDL) is a national nonprofit that designs, implements, and scales new learning models for higher education and the future of work. (There are approximately 1,100 community colleges in the U.S.)
Each system or college in the cohort will receive an implementation grant of $100,000 along with extensive hands-on support from EDL to launch their school’s micro-pathways. Teams at each college or system will engage with employers and regional stakeholders, including K-12 school districts, to help low-wage and entry-level workers advance into roles that pay at least median wage. (The current Tucson household median income is about $51,000, compared to the U.S. median of about $68,700.)
Micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials that can be packaged together to quickly connect learners to employment in high-growth careers. Sometimes called “nano degrees,” these non-credit programs, along with for-credit certificates, have become the fastest growing learning offerings at community colleges nationwide over the last year. Pima will work closely with industry partners to ensure that these pathways will develop marketable skills leading to jobs with verifiable salary increases as more training is acquired.
“The pandemic has brought a heightened sense of urgency to our historic mission of supporting social and economic mobility for the diverse students and working adults that community colleges serve,” PCC Chancellor Lee D. Lambert said. “Addressing this crisis requires us to develop new and more flexible credentials that are more responsive to the rapidly-changing needs of the labor market.”
PCC will draw on labor market research from the Federal Reserve Bank offices to identify the most in-demand careers in the Southwest and design stackable credentials that lead to earnings at or above the median wage.
The Education Design Lab will convene and lead a community of practice of participating college presidents and employer partners. Additional partners and collaborators providing advice and expertise to the Lab’s multi-sector effort include: nonprofits Workcred and Opportunity@Work; industry workforce entities like the Manufacturing Institute; and the SkillUp Coalition.
Other members of the Fund’s inaugural cohort are Austin Community College, the City University of New York (CUNY), Ivy Tech Community College, Prince George’s Community College, and the Seattle Colleges.
More than 29 million Americans are now collecting some type of unemployment benefit, while less than half of the 22 million jobs lost since March have been replaced. With support from funders including Walmart, DeLaski Family Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, the Community College Growth Engine Fund will invest $3 million to help U.S. community colleges collaborate with local employers to meet growing demand for short-term credentials and 21st century skills such as resilience, collaboration and problem-solving.
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Founded in 1969, Pima Community College offers degrees and certificates in more than 100 transfer and occupational programs at teaching sites throughout Pima County. To learn more, visit www.pima.edu