By Christian Lagarde, Project Manager, Workforce and Economic Development, American Association of Community Colleges

If you had to decide right now what components of your grant to sustain, what would you choose? How do you define sustainability? And how to you get to sustainability?

These were the questions asked during the Round Three Sustainability Virtual Institute (SVI).

This institute was an intensive three week series of webinars and meetings between TAACCCT grantees, coaches and subject matter experts, framed around the TAACCCT Sustainability Toolkit. During a breakout discussion in the second SVI webinar, grantees discussed the academic and program of study elements that they plan to sustain. Employer engagement came out at the top of list.

Here are some of the insights grantees shared during their discussion of employer engagement:

  1. Sector Strategies and Smaller Employers
    When sector strategies are discussed, the assumption is that large companies in healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, etc. have to be involved. But, small businesses can also add a unique insight on the local/regional skill needs for the sector. The Colorado Community College System and Colorado Workforce Development Council developed a step-by- step model of how they created engaged employers of all sizes in their sector strategy. The model can be found at
  2. Value Proposition for Employers
    Ensuring that the relationship between employers and community colleges is a two-way street may be the single most important element in identifying the value of the programs. During the webinar, several grantees voiced that employers lost interest during the grant and/or did not accept invitations to join advisory boards. The discussion yielded ideas around listening intensively and increasing the dialog between the college and the employers. One consortium that developed an employer engagement model that goes beyond the advisory board is the National Information, Security, and Geospatial Technology Consortium (NISGTC). The Transformative Change Initiative produced a strategy brief to highlight what makes the Business & Industry Leadership Team model effective. In addition, A Resource Guide to Employer Engagement could assist grantees in developing a value statement to establish a strong relationship with new and existing employers.
  3. Statewide Collaboration
    Maine and West Virginia shared how each state scaled the employer engagement strategy to connect to a larger statewide advisory group. Also, both consortiums used the prior learning assessment statewide policy changes to intensify collaboration among the credit and non-credit sides of the colleges. The West Virginia Community and Technical College System developed a website devoted to Credit for Prior Learning, which can be found at .

In addition to employer engagement, grantees in this breakout session also said that they want to sustain accelerated programs and emphasized the need for hard data to support sustainability. In a second breakout session, grantees discussed key strategies for sustaining student supports and emphasized the importance of data, both qualitative and quantitative. The next blog post will share highlights from the student support break-out. Participants in the second SVI webinar found these discussions helpful because they provided the opportunity to hear success stories and best practices while collecting resources developed by fellow meeting participants.

Following on the success of the Round 3 SVI, the TAACCCT Learning Network is currently hosting a virtual institute for Round 4 grantees with an extended timeline. 

If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact me at #TAACCCT

The American Association of Community Colleges is a part of the team providing technical assistance to the TAACCCT Learning Network, along with Jobs for the Future and Maher & Maher.