Building Pathways to Innovation in Skilled Technical Workforce Education Through Strategic Employer Engagement
This project will serve the national interest in a strong American workforce by ensuring that more college technical education programs align with the current and emerging needs of business and industry. In May 2020, the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board published a call-to-action challenging key stakeholders in the U.S. economy to "engage in a shared, coordinated, and sustained effort to build a resilient and agile workforce of the future powered by skilled American workers." Investing in American Workers to Expedite Economic Recovery issued three goals: 1) Expedite American workers' return to employment and upward mobility by investing in career pathways and implementing skills-based hiring practices; 2) Remove obstacles to the modernization of American education and training to accelerate reskilling and facilitate innovation in workforce development; and 3) Build the technological infrastructure necessary for the future of work. These goals closely align with current efforts of the National Science Board, the National Science Foundation, and the NSF's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program to grow the STEM-capable U.S. workforce through skilled technical workforce programs tailored to the needs of local communities. To support workforce development, this project will address the essential need to strengthen and expand partnerships between business/industry and community colleges that prepare the skilled technical workforce through career pathways programs. By fostering public-private partnerships in technical education, the project will promote making high-wage, high-skilled job opportunities available to many people who have not previously had access to these positions. Local and regional business and industry will benefit because their pipeline of qualified candidates for open positions will be expanded. Finally, participating colleges, their faculty, and future students in existing and emerging technical disciplines will benefit from initiating work on a culture of innovation co-led by business and industry.
This project will develop strong business engagement between technical education programs and the employers who want to hire graduates of these programs, while also strategically increasing the number of competitive grant proposals submitted annually to the ATE program. Building on the ATE-supported Business Industry Leadership Team (BILT) model, a proven method for strategic employer engagement, colleges engaged in the project will develop employer relationships that yield workforce intelligence at a depth and with a frequency to facilitate continuous program improvement and innovation. The project will launch three complementary initiatives: 1) A BILT Academy that will support teams from community college to effectively keep pace with shifting workforce demands and evolving technologies to prepare the nation's skilled technical workforce; 2) A Mentoring Academy that will increase awareness of ATE's focus on innovation and mentor college teams to use BILT's essential elements as a foundation upon which to build competitive proposals for implementing innovative programs responsive to employer needs; and 3) The project team will coordinate efforts with ATE National Centers to assist new grantees in effective grant management and implementation of strategic employer engagement through on-demand resources and an Ask-an-ATE Expert helpline. To carry out these activities, the project will develop a body of materials that can be used virtually and face-to-face, as well as a curated resource collection that will support ongoing college innovation in creating and enhancing technical education programs through strategic employer engagement. The project will also develop an updated approach to mentoring by building upon existing ATE proposal-writing workshop materials augmented with a BILT emphasis. The project will identify and document new frequently asked questions by the Ask-an-ATE Expert Help Desk to inform the development of new resources for grantees. All on-demand, curated content developed by the project will be made available without cost to the public and beyond.