Community College Partnership’s Instructional Impacts | SRI International
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Community College Partnership’s Instructional Impacts

SRI Education and partners conducted a six-year study of community college-employer collaboration to improve the design and delivery of workforce education programming.

In the United States, headlines regularly describe the "skills gap" between what employers want and what workers can do. Historically, closing this gap has relied on an informal system of community college workforce educators meeting occasionally with industry advisory panels. However, the disruptive forces of global job competition and the rise of the knowledge economy have catalyzed a decade of experimentation into new forms of collaboration between employers and college educators. The result is a set of more active approaches to employer-college partnership that aim to restructure and accelerate the U.S. workforce education system.

To date, evaluation of these innovative partnerships has focused on productivity metrics. While measures of how many instructional materials are developed and how many students have been enrolled, certified, and employed, are important, to truly accelerate and deepen workforce education reform across the U.S., more knowledge is needed.

To address this knowledge gap, SRI Education has developed the Workforce Education Implementation Evaluation (WEIE) framework with funding from the National Science Foundation. The WEIE framework provides a set of tools that can be used by researchers, evaluators, and practitioners to measure the key qualities of employer-college partnership implementation. It includes tools for:

  • Understanding regional labor market needs
  • Planning and monitoring the quality of employer-college collaborations
  • Improving the quality of the instructional programming to prepare students to have transferable workforce skills

The WEIE goal is to engage more funders, researchers, practitioners, and evaluators in building a deeper and more democratic understanding of practice in the workforce development field. The WEIE framework's core elements—the research brief, toolkit, and links to published research—are available on this website.

The work focused on the following objectives:

  1. Describe partnership strategies
  2. Characterize approaches for aligning workforce programs with local labor market demands
  3. Characterize approaches to designing and delivering workforce instruction
  4. Create an implementation evaluation framework to inform future research into workforce education partnerships and programming
  5. Disseminate usable tools and materials for partnership building and workforce-integrated instruction

Related Information

Research Publications

Yarnall, L., Tennant, E., & Stites, R. (2015, October). Big foot or footprint tracking? How employer footprint shapes education partnerships. Presentation made at the annual conference of the National Career Pathways Network, Dallas, Texas.

Yarnall, L. (2015, September). Workforce Programs as Centers of Quality Learning. Innovation Showcase. League Connections, 16(9).

Yarnall, L. (2014). Meeting 2020 workforce goals: The role of industry-college collaboration and goals for instructional design. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 38(2-3). 250-260.

Yarnall, L., Tennant, L., & Stites, R. (2016). A framework for evaluating implementation of community college workforce education partnerships and programs. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 1-17. DOI:10.1080/10668926.2015.1101405

Smith, N. L. & Yarnall, L. (to be submitted). Conducting effective external research on technician education in the community college context. American Journal of Evaluation.

Engaging Industry and Students in STEM Middle Skill Jobs - See more at:

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under award number 0903331. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Principal Investigator: Louise Yarnall
Research Team: Raymond McGhee, Elizabeth Tennant, Regie Stites, Ron Fried, Jennifer Van Brunt, Reina Fujii, Ying Zheng, Robert Murphy, Geneva Haertel, Gloria Miller, Ames & Associates
Research Team Emeritus: Carolyn Dornsife, Ashley Lee, Yukie Toyama