PROJECTChanging Community College Systems for Student Success

Connections to Employment

Connections to Employment

Developing Work-Based Learning Opportunities for Students

Work-based learning opportunities allow community college students to apply classroom learning in professional work settings and gain additional skills and real-world experience. These opportunities can be a component of or in addition to required classes, and they can include apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing, mentoring, and simulated work environments. They often involve community colleges partnering with local employers.


Registered apprenticeships 
A combination of paid on-the-job training with required mastery of clearly defined skills and classroom instruction to prepare students for highly skilled careers.

On-the-job training approaches 
These include internships, co-op education, clinical experiences that are a part of a program of study, and other types of work experiences (paid or unpaid) at a work site. The primary purpose is to learn about and train for an occupation. These typically do not confer a credential at completion.

Simulation labs and up-to-date equipment for training 
Incorporating the use of relevant, up-to-date equipment or simulated work settings (such as hospital rooms) in courses of study, sometimes funded by local industry.

Work-based mentoring 
Students are paired with people in relevant industries who provide one-on-one guidance and support related to understanding the industry, completing credentials, and seeking employment.

Examples From the Field

North Idaho College’s New Aerospace Training Facility

In 2015, the college established an off-site training location to practice skills on equipment, and hired an employer-partner's employee as an adjunct college instructor to provide training in the facility in the evenings. Industry partners such as Lockheed Martin donated materials and equipment, defraying costs to students. These partnerships helped the college leverage additional resources for sustainability and serve as a model for new programs in other industries.

Scaling Work-Based Learning in California Community Colleges

Established by the Foundation for California Community Colleges, this project grows the user base and facilitates employer engagement of LaunchPath, an online tool that uses comprehensive data systems and analytics to connect employers with students for internships and jobs. This builds on the Work-Based Learning Planning and Tools pilot conducted in 32 California community colleges.

Connections to Employment

Supporting Students’ Career Goals and Transitions to Employment

Community colleges are no longer just helping students complete degrees or credentials. Instead, they are taking greater accountability for students finding employment in their field of study. Community colleges are implementing new ways to help their students connect to employment opportunities, including using career coaches and navigators, providing better career and employment information, and improving students’ work-readiness and job search skills. Creating work-based learning opportunities (discussed in the previous strategy) can also serve this end.


Career coaches and navigators 
These college staff work closely with students to identify where they need to improve their job readiness, counsel them on job search activities, and provide access to services and supports to help their transition to the workforce. They can also help students define career goals and provide academic and personal support to ensure completion. These staff can be hired by the college or through local agencies such as American Job Centers.

Work-readiness skill building 
In addition to the academic or occupational field of study, community colleges are providing work-readiness workshops and counseling through dedicated staff, program faculty, and mentors.

Using technology to provide students better career information 
Community colleges are using technology to find new ways to provide students with information about careers and employment throughout the course of their enrollment. This information includes career aptitude assessments, descriptions of different jobs (including wages and local employer demand), and information about job openings. Technologies include web portals and interactive apps.

Examples From the Field

Flathead Valley Community College’s Workforce Navigator Model

The Workforce Navigator is a staff member who plays multiple roles, such as a recruiter, student supporter, and job placement specialist, and remains flexible to student needs. The position is embedded with participants and faculty in programs of study. The Navigator becomes an expert in the program and can help participants with program-specific questions and support their success in courses and transition to employment. The navigator's physical presence in the trades department allows him or her to build relationships with faculty and offer drop-in services for students.

Connections to Employment

Developing Strategic Partnerships to Build Employment Opportunities for Students

Community colleges have engaged employers and other organizations in the community through advisory committees to support their efforts. Beyond advising, employers and other organizations may be more directly involved in operating training programs or developing education and training strategies across an industry. These partners include employers, industry groups, public workforce system organizations, social service agencies, unions, and others to ensure programs of study are aligned with industry needs and that students are connected to job opportunities.


Sector partnerships
Employers within an industry lead strategic discussions and initiatives across multiple organizations (including community colleges) to develop worker talent.

Employer partners
Employers coordinate with a community college to provide strategic input on curriculum, credentials, and training equipment and facilities; donate equipment and employees’ time as instructors; and offer work-based learning opportunities and hire students.

Public workforce system partners 
Workforce development boards and American Job Centers, organizations that make up the public workforce system, coordinate with a community college or community college system to offer referrals to the programs, career advising and counseling, job search assistance, job-readiness workshops, and tuition support. They can also provide employment and wage data on students who get hired to help the community college follow up on their students as they transition to the workforce.

Examples From the Field

Locating an American Job Center on a Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Campus

NOVA opened an American Job Center, part of the public workforce system, on one of its campuses in partnership with the Northern Virginia Workforce Development Board. The campus was in an emerging growth area for information technology careers and had been underserved by the public workforce system. The college constructed the American Job Center office within an existing space and paid for a manager to oversee the office. Having this center allows students to easily access self-service job search tools, career advising and counseling, and job-readiness skills workshops.

Research Areas Education Workforce
Tags Job training