By Maria Fieth, M.A.2 RTC, SkillsCommons program manager for Communications and Community at California State University-MERLOT, Office of the Chancellor.

In Search of Innovation
As today’s community colleges work feverishly to help solve workforce pipeline issues, it becomes increasingly important to leverage the learning happening elsewhere. Adoption and adaptation of innovative practices can help accelerate program start up times, increase retention rates, and, most importantly, lead to increased job placement and wage rates for completers. The SkillsCommons IMPACTcommunities created the SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: The Gallery Edition, an interactive collection of innovative solutions to common challenges found in higher education. The Gallery Edition was designed to provide easy access to a viable collection of innovations for institutions, organizations, and industries wishing to adopt and adapt vetted program material and practices in workforce development efforts.

Identifying the exemplary innovative practices was the first step to creating The Gallery Edition. In August of 2017, the SkillsCommons Skills2Work IMPACTcommunity disseminated three sets of surveys to TAACCCT grantee community colleges. The surveys’ focus areas included identifying innovations in workforce, student support services, academics, and leadership. Using multiple rubrics for evaluating the features of TAACCCT projects and their outcomes, the selection committee identified 11 innovations as the initial set of candidates for The Gallery Edition. Selected innovations addressed high-priority needs in manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, and other sectors. A list of the innovations and projects selected from the surveys is outlined below. Nearly 20 additional TAACCCT project innovations were selected for inclusion in The Gallery Edition, making the full collection a cross-sector approach to problem-solving common challenges in workforce development efforts in higher education.

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Capturing the Knowledge from the Field
The intention of The Gallery Edition is to highlight innovations developed through the U.S. Department of Labor funded TAACCCT initiative and support scalability and sustainability, allowing others to leverage the benefit of the work. Nine of the initial eleven TAACCCT projects chosen attended an event at the California State University’s Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach, California, on March 7, 2018, where project leads gave video interviews describing the innovations being highlighted, why they came about and how they can be scaled. The one-day event kicked off with an opening delivered by the U.S. DOL’s Robin Fernkas, and Cheryl Martin, whose team oversees the TAACCCT initiative nationwide; and by Gerry Hanley, CSU-MERLOT’s assistant vice chancellor, MERLOT’s executive director, and SkillsCommons’ director.

In addition to the video interviews conducted of project representatives to capture conversations describing their TAACCCT innovations, work sessions followed. The college leaders shared insight and guidance as to how their projects’ innovations can become sustainable institutional practices. Participants also received feedback from their TAACCCT peers on next steps for strengthening their work. The resulting Gallery Edition blends video interviews, documentation detailing the innovations and their outcomes, links to tools and materials located on, and expert guidance on how others can adopt and adapt these innovations.

The SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: The Gallery Edition
The Gallery Edition is now available in a downloadable e-book format and as a webpage in the FREE and OPEN SkillsCommons library, which showcases this collection of solution-based innovations from each of the selected projects. Join us for the upcoming webinar highlighting innovations for increasing academic achievement found in the field guide on October 10 at 4 p.m. ET.

You can watch recordings of past webinars in the Innovations Leading to Career Success Webinar Series Part II, which featured examples from the field guide:

  • SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: Aligning Workforce Development Stakeholders
  • SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: Increasing Student Support Services to Improve Student/Worker Outcomes 

Congratulations to each of the TAACCCT projects chosen for this honor. The CSU-MERLOT SkillsCommons team is excited for them to play an integral role in the SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: The Gallery Edition and share the considerable efforts produced by the TAACCCT initiative.

About TAACCCT and SkillsCommons

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program awarded over 700 community colleges nearly $2 billion to develop, implement, and scale instructional and programmatic innovations in workforce training. The U.S. Department of Labor also funded SkillsCommons, the world’s largest collection of FREE and OPEN workforce training materials, to capture, organize, and enable the scalable reuse of the products of the TAACCCT grants. SkillsCommons is the free and open online library of these resources designed and administered by the SkillsCommons team under California State University (CSU) - MERLOT.

From complete online course curricula to apprenticeship resources to student and trainee support systems, SkillsCommons surpassed the one-million-downloads marker of TAACCCT grantee-developed materials to date. It is fair to say that people are noticing the free and open access to the U.S. Department of Labor’s investments.