Announcing C4EO – A response to the employability mandate

Sep 05, 2014 Comments Off on Announcing C4EO – A response to the employability mandate

New job-driven curriculum alignment center from TSTC created to maximize the employability of students and enhance regional economic development

Texas State Technical College announces the launch of the Center for Employability Outcomes (C4EO). This new applied research center uses a common skills language to link education and industry.

For decades, industry leaders have discussed skills using a wide variety of words, while individuals have described their skills in resumes using other words. Caught in the middle, well-intentioned educators have worked to develop curriculum that addresses local industries’ needs while also being attractive to students aspiring for future jobs. The new center is harnessing the power of the Common Skills Language Project initiated by the Texas Workforce Commission to bridge these gaps.

“We are bridging the gaps between people, colleges and industry,” said Michael Bettersworth, executive director at the Center For Employability Outcomes (C4EO) at TSTC. “We must align the talent supplied by our education system to business and industry’s demands. That is what C4EO is doing. We are building the future talent management pipeline system.“

Linking Education and Workforce

Based in Austin, C4EO is the curator of a continuously updated library of skills drawn from 1,400 Texas companies and validated by more than 4,000 subject matter experts. Initial funding for this work was obtained through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas Workforce Commission as well as TSTC funding.

TSTC is now seeking support from the Texas Legislature to formally establish the center so it can help more colleges train Texans in the skills needed by industry, and help industry leaders identify and recruit the talent they need to remain competitive.

C4EO is initially working to create and strengthen the links between colleges and local industry. C4EO has created software tools that allow firms to define the work they need completed using common phrases. Those phrases are then applied to targeted growth occupations. From this, colleges can build their curriculum around those growth occupations.

“C4EO’s program audits and move to skills-mastery over class seat-time are examples of the positive impact the analysis can have for students when a school district or college uses the skills analysis,” said Vangie Stice-Israel, long-time director of Career and Technology Education programs at the Texas Education Agency. “Students who graduate from those programs should exit with a strong mastery of the necessary skills and without having wasted time, and enter the job market well prepared and sooner than they would have in a traditional program.”

This all benefits the colleges, which are under pressure from policy makers to better focus their offerings so students are employable and industry has the talent they need to compete. Policy makers have noticed that not only has the cost of college tuitions increased, but also that colleges have increased the number of credit hours required to earn a degree, further adding to the total cost of a college education for students and their families. Being able to offer curriculums that develop the skills most sought after in the workplace can help increase the value of those students’ and families’ education investment.

C4EO has also created software tools that allow college leaders to analyze the skills being taught in their curriculum and determine which skills are most in demand in the current marketplace. Perhaps more importantly, it also helps them identify which skills are lacking and which may be over-emphasized in a specific curriculum.

So far, C4EO and TSTC have helped 22 community colleges refine curriculum to be market relevant and more efficient. These efforts have targeted specific technical education programs at the colleges, and are already helping colleges, their students and local industry. Colleges interested in being a part of the next round of curriculum analysis can apply online today.

Common skill descriptions that are applied to new and existing occupations is the common thread that allows for efficiency in training workers, connecting workers to industry, and helping industry move forward with its staffing needs, said Rich Froeschle, director of the labor market and career information department at TWC.

“Once you understand the labor market at the skills level, then all kinds of understanding is possible,” Froeschle said. “Nothing is more important than making sure that the education system is teaching the kinds of skills that are in demand in the labor market. Texas State Technical College took an early interest in this. TSTC has been an exceptional, nimble and focused partner in all of this effort.”

The nation is taking notice of TSTC’s and C4EO’s efforts.

“Everybody’s got their eyes on Texas on this one,” said Anthony Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, in a recent story about the launch of the C4EO at TSTC in the Texas Tribune.

Others agree.

“I think these guys have hit on a great model in that we are getting away from anecdotal information and into more data-driven decision-making,” Paul Potier, a professor of electronics and advanced technology at Austin Community College who has been using C4EO’s initial skills analysis tool, said in an interview with the Texas Tribune.

While Texas has been leading the nation in job growth for the past four years, it is still experiencing an inefficient labor market with more than 700,000 unemployed Texans, according to TWC employment data. Many Texas employers are complaining louder than ever that they cannot locate the proper workers with the skills they need, so too many jobs go unfilled and Texas companies are not earning the revenues they could with a fully and properly skilled workforce.

The need for C4EO’s talent pipeline management system will also grow significantly during the coming decade as many of the experienced Baby Boomer workers retire and walk away with their talent and skills, forcing employers to redefine what skills are truly needed and hire for those skills.

“Skills are the DNA of jobs,” said Bettersworth. “Skills are really what industry leaders want. C4EO is designed to help educators link with industry needs and to help Texas,” Bettersworth said. “We want to increase people’s employability by teaching them things that are the most relevant. None of this tells the college what they must teach. None of this says here is the curriculum required to be a welder or an electrician. What we’re doing is showing which competencies have high market value versus low market value.”

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