My name is Katie Edwards and I have just joined the Career Pathways group! I've been using the resources of LINCS for a while, but just decided to take my involvement to the next level. I work at a community college in Maryland with adult ESL students. One of my particular projects as a grant funded program coordinator is creating IELCE/IET courses. So, I'm very interested in career pathways!
I'd love to hear what members of this community are involved in, especially those of you who work with ESL students.
Hi, Katie. Welcome to the Career Pathways group. I am in a similar role as you are in a community college in Omaha, Nebraska. What kind of IETs are being built in Maryland? We have just created our first IET, and it is in construction. It is running now: June 6-August 9. It provides an on-ramp for student/workers who want to train or retrain in any construction trade. Our first class had just ten people: nine men and one woman.
Thanks for reaching out! That is exciting to hear about your first IET - I think 10 folks is a good size for an IET, both because they tend to only appeal to a smaller number of students and also to target the specific needs of those students. In Maryland, each program can create their own IETs. At our college, we also have a course in construction, one in bookkeeping and accounting, one in computer skills and one with CNA/PCT students (currently run through a different grant but will transfer over to IELCE/IET funds in the spring.) We've run at least one class of each of these and interestingly, the bookeeping pathway seems to be the most successful. This is probably due to our highly skilled immigrant population. This fall we will offer some co-enrolled credit classes and I am hopeful that they will be successful!
One area in which we're struggling the most is recruitment. How were you able to reach out and recruit your students? What area is the most challenging for you? Any other thoughts you'd like to share?
Hi, Katie! Hi, everyone else who is interested in IETs! Recruitment has been a challenge. To make a long story short, we (Adult Education at Metropolitan Community College) recruited several students who fit program criteria (ages 18-30, interested in long-term, sustainable employment in a construction trade, authorized to work in U.S., etc) but all backed out except for one. A couple of other students had participated in a sheet metal program (noncredit) offered by our Workforce Innovation Division at MCC and found out about it through them. A few were found by our partner American Job Center, whom I won't name publicly. And the remaining students were found by our corporate partner who is a construction industry leader. One student was an employee's child. Others came out of local high schools, other community colleges, and a university. This IET was very special because it was almost an afterthought to an existing career pathways program in construction. The program itself is very ambitious: 18 college credits and 3 certifications in five weeks. The basic skills and GED component is after school, and only for students who need it. Not as integrated as we might like. We will probably make changes in the future if we run this one again. One great part about the IET is that the students were paid minimum wage to participate in the classroom instruction for five weeks. They get a raise as soon as they transition to on-the-job training. That made it attractive for many students. Other students we recruited couldn't take a pay cut from where they were already working, so we lost them. We recruited from our own large Adult Education program by using our database to identify students by date of birth. We could only take students in a certain age range, so we called students in that range individually to invite them to participate. We also talked up the program at our centers and asked our part-time instructors to help identify students who could benefit from the program. I found that most of the students we ended up with were less interested in college classes and job training than I thought they would be. But they were willing to slog through it for the promise of a full-time, sustainable employment opportunity. I quickly learned, when recruiting, to ask students if they were interested in "a job opportunity". If I said "education opportunity", they often said no or simply hung up!
Thanks for you sharing your experience with recruiting for your IET construction program. Your program was very ambitious, with students earning 18 college credit and three certifications in five weeks! I'm wondering if there were options for learners to complete less than this, say three credits and one certification, for example? I wonder if that would have allowed more learners to stay in the program?
For the one who did complete the program, where there any characteristics that s/he possessed which you believe made your program more manageable? If so, how did that change what you would do differently in recruiting for this program in the future?
Thanks again for sharing your experience with us. It's wonderful to hear about what programs are trying, and learning, around IET.
Career Pathways Moderator
Thanks, Mike, for the great questions. I should clarify that when I said, "all backed out except one", I was referring to the recruiting we did inside our existing MCC Adult Education student body. Only one student from that group joined the construction IET. Two other students joined from MCC Workforce Innovation Division. Seven more came from area high schools, community colleges and a university. The total enrollment for the Construction program was 10. It appears that 9 will finish on August 9.
This program was largely funded by one construction company. Because of this, that company had a lot of say in how the program was structured. That is why the program was so very ambitious. It is possible that in the future this program will be run as non-credit, or even 1/2 credit and 1/2 non-credit. Students were highly successful in Introduction to the Construction Industry class. There were mixed results in Applied Mathematics, Blueprint Reading, and Digital Blueprint Reading, even with iBest instruction.
The most successful students that I observed are "hungry"- that is, they really want this. Also, they tend to be older (mid-twenties and up) and mature. All are incredibly hard-working and disciplined. They are also resilient and persevere in the face of setbacks. They all had to fill out a full online job application to the company, upload a resume, go through an interview process, and pass background checks and drug screens just to get started.
Ultimately, the companies are paying the wages of the students and instructors. And as long as that arrangement continues, the companies will get to decide how the program is structured and which students get recruited and accepted to the program. The Community College will basically be providing instruction and students/workers that fit the company's needs. I am new to this area, but it seems to me that career pathways is a delicate dance that balances industry demands, student goals, aspirations, and limitations, and the potential of instruction to create an effective bridge between these two groups.
Thoughts, Mike and Katie? Anyone else working in this area?