Not all good jobs require a four-year college degree. On the other hand, not all short-term classes and credential courses billed as delivering quick career advancement may actually lead to quality roles either. 

Plus, the workforce is becoming more automated, and not all job opportunities are equitable. The unemployment rate for Black Americans, for example, is ticking up again after dropping during the pandemic.   

It’s a lot.

Community college workforce programs, one Washington, D.C.-based think tank surmises, might be able to help. New America is bringing 15 two-year public colleges from across the country together in hopes of doing just that, and Cuyahoga Community College is one of them. 

New work group launches

Tri-C is part of New America’s recently announced Community College Workforce Transformation and Implementation Cohort. A goal of the initiative, according to an announcement shared earlier this month on New America’s website, is to build “a system that supports people retraining for the jobs that are available and can sustain a family.” 

Tri-C applied for the program. The biggest selling point, according to the college’s executive vice president of workforce, community and economic development Shana Marbury, was New America’s emphasis on racial equity. Tri-C is  focused on economic mobility for all Northeast Ohio residents, according to Marbury. 

“We want to make sure that they have access to Tri-C, access to our training programs, and access to better life outcomes,” she added.

Tri-C gets to work

The group’s work will center on three areas. One is “building the capacity of colleges to meet the current economic demand in their communities while also contributing to the economic development and emerging jobs in their regions,” per New America. 

Under that umbrella, Marbury said, Tri-C wants to better align the college’s credential and certificate offerings – a long list that includes areas ranging from accounting to automotive technology  – and what the community’s workforce actually needs. 

Maybe that looks like launching sector partnerships, she said. Officials also want to create career pathways for students that could include giving credits for things like work experiences or non-credit courses they’ve already completed.  

Gathering data and tracking metrics is another focal point of the group. Currently, Tri-C manually tracks figures related to non-credit courses. College officials, Marbury said, want to learn from their peers how to automate that system. 

A third area of the organization’s focus tackles funding. There are lots of opportunities to launch new credential offerings, according to Marbury. The hurdles, though, can come from figuring out how to pay for related startup costs like faculty salaries and equipment.  

“That’s been a particular area of challenge for us, so this is another area where we really want to lean on the cohort model, looking at those best practices around the country in terms of funding new programs,” Marbury said. “Obviously, we’re aware of philanthropy and other streams, but what kind of funding pathways are other colleges putting in place that really make these programs sustainable?” 

The group’s first meeting is set for later this week. Monthly half-day workshops will begin after that. Technical assistance and regular check-ins will be available, too. Cohort members will meet in-person twice before the program winds down in early 2025. 

Higher education reporter for Signal Cleveland in partnership with Open Campus.