The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is moving forward with its game plan to create 16,000 new apprenticeships over three years in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
The four strands of activities to develop the Expanding Community College Apprenticeships (ECCA) initiative include: discussions around definitions; ensuring that participating colleges are providing clear information to students and employers about apprenticeships; providing technical support to colleges selected to participate in the $20 million partnership with DOL; and working with industry partners.
AACC President Walter Bumphus noted that ECCA will dovetail with other AACC programs, including workforce development, in general, and the association’s career pathways program.
“It has to be aligned if it’s going to make a difference,” Bumphus said.
He also noted AACC’s developing Unfinished Business initiative, which will look at student success in terms of equity for all students. The effort will include a series of meetings in Washington, D.C., over the next few months to hear from member colleges about their challenges in this area as well as their successes. The association will hold the second meeting later this month.
“We’re going to be laser-focused on closing the achievement gaps and equity gaps, and trying to prepare out graduates to earn family-sustaining wages,” Bumphus said.
Groundwork for apprenticeships
The ECCA initiative, as well as the increasing use of apprenticeships in general in the community college sector, was the centerpiece of a session at the AACC annual convention. It also highlighted several promising practices across the U.S. as college leaders look to meet the goals for ECCA.
“The idea is not just to train individuals directly but also to build a framework for a national system that’s never been done before,” said Jennifer Worth, AACC’s senior vice president for workforce and economic development.
The first strand of the initiative will focus on definitions, Worth said. The definition and requirements for formal, federally recognized registered apprenticeships are well known, but other workforce-related activities, such as internships and cooperative agreements, could also come under the umbrella of apprenticeships, she said.
“We believe you all currently are doing apprenticeships, you’re just not necessarily calling it that,” she told community college leaders.
A 55-member task force created by AACC, which met for the first time at the AACC convention, will tackle that, among other tasks.
The second strand focuses on developing a consistent message around apprenticeships. Some community colleges have clear, robust information publicly available about their apprenticeship programs, while others have little, if any, information on their programs, Worth said. The idea is to ensure information is consistent and available across participating colleges, she said. AACC will identify five to 10 components of apprenticeships that will serve as a framework for colleges.
The third strand will address direct technical support. To reach the bulk of the 16,000 new apprenticeships, AACC will select 80 locations to participate in ECCA, with each one creating 150 apprenticeships over three years, Worth said.
The final strand relies on industry partners to create apprenticeships. AACC will soon announce four major companies that will create 1,000 apprenticeships each to reach the 16,000 goal, Worth said.