ERIC Identifier: ED383360
Publication Date: 1995-03-00
Author: Laanan, Frankie Santos
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
for Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Community Colleges as Facilitators of School-to-Work. ERIC
Advanced technologies, heightened international competition, and volatile
market economies contribute to an ever-changing work environment that is
demanding increasingly broader skills and technological competencies of the
American workforce. Unfortunately, a large proportion of young people entering
the workforce today are not properly prepared to meet the current demands of the
unpredictable work environment.
The challenge of preparing young people for employment and facilitating the
smooth transition from school to work spurred the enactment of the
School-to-Work Opportunities Act, signed by President Clinton on May 4, 1994.
The main purpose and congressional intent of the STWOA is to "establish a
national framework within which all States can create statewide School-to-Work
Opportunities systems" (STWOA, 1994, Sec.1). The STWOA defines a school-to-work
system as a network of key players that combines three central elements.
Work-Based Learning - the incorporation of work experience, workplace mentoring,
and industry-specific skills into a sequential program of skill mastery and job
School-Based Learning - the integration of academic and vocational curriculum.
Connecting Activities - the implementation of bridging activities that match
students with employers, link secondary with postsecondary education, and assist
students to acquire additional training.
Of all educational institutions, community colleges are in the unique
position to respond directly to the STWOA mandates for work-based and
school-based learning, and connecting activities. This digest discusses the
critical role community colleges play in meeting the mandates of the legislation
and facilitating the development of effective school-to-work systems. Issues
community colleges face in school-to-work implementation are also discussed.
COMMUNITY COLLEGES AS FACILITATORS
Community colleges play
an integral role as facilitators of effective school-to-work systems. Throughout
their history they have incorporated the three components mentioned above and
they do it in three ways.
First, community colleges serve as the primary link between secondary and
Second, they offer creative transition programs such as tech prep,
apprenticeships, cooperative education, and career education.
Third, community colleges collaborate with employers, community, government, and
The challenge community colleges face is to refine and strengthen effective
programs and strategies in these three areas and to develop new and creative
approaches where they are needed.
THE SECONDARY - POSTSECONDARY LINK
secondary-postsecondary educational link is essential to any school-to-work
system. By the year 2000, an estimated 75% of jobs will require education or
training beyond high school (Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring,
1992; American Association for Community Colleges, 1993). Community colleges
offer low-cost, quality postsecondary education which provides individuals the
opportunity to acquire skills necessary to move from school to work easily.
Community colleges can strengthen the pathways between high school and higher
Coordinating high school and community college courses of study;
Continuing to incorporate career awareness, exploration, and decision making
into the curriculum;
Providing instruction in work attitudes, communication and critical thinking
Emphasizing students' continuous self-improvement in courses; and
Building upon existing job skills (California Community Colleges, 1993; Los
Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring, 1992).
Significant changes are also required
in the relationship between the classroom and the workplace, and applied and
academic learning. This includes setting and meeting the academic and technical
standards set by the National Education Standards and Improvement Council and
the National Skill Standards Board. Transition programs with which many people
are already familiar such as tech-prep education, school-to-apprenticeship,
cooperative education, business-education contracts, and career academies are
spearheading these changes and are potentially the foundations on which
school-to-work systems will be built (United States Department of Education,
The function of opening career pathways by means of these various transition
programs is particularly suited to community colleges. Community colleges have
consistently viewed career education as a means of providing the academic
education and occupational training students need to meet workplace skill
demands. Underscored by policymakers within job training programs as well as by
employers is the importance of students possessing occupational skills, along
with basic skills in mathematics, reading, and writing (Carnevale and Gainer,
1989). School-to-work transition programs at community colleges can develop
employability skills by integrating academic and vocational education, and by
establishing or expanding job training programs with local businesses and
industry. Jacobs (1993) asserts that vocational and general education
professionals must create new approaches that successfully bridge the two.
Tech prep education is an example of a highly visible community college
strategy for building a school-to-work system. The principles and practices of
tech prep involve the key elements mandated in STWOA such as offering
opportunities for direct entry into the workplace and providing a career path.
However, in order to play a stronger role in establishing a national network of
school-to-work systems, the United States Department of Education (1994)
suggests five areas of improvement for tech prep:
Clarify the "message" that tech prep is for all students;
Incorporate nationally recognized skill standards (i.e., SCANS);
Make career guidance and counseling an important part of the program;
Strengthen employer involvement; and
Encourage professional development opportunities.
Many of the above suggestions for enhancing tech prep can also be applied to
other transition programs at community colleges.
PARTNERSHIPS WITH COMMUNITY SECTORS
Community colleges are
recognized for their existing partnerships with the community and business. In
order for school-to-work programs to be successful, all sectors of the community
must collaborate on innovative ways to meet shared and individual needs.
Community sector partnerships at local and state levels serve as the driving
force in planning and implementing the operation of school-to-work systems and
The major players in forming school-to-work programs include schools,
employers, and labor and community-based organizations. The potential roles of
the various sectors have been outlined in an information bulletin by the United
States Department of Education (1994).
The role of high schools and community colleges is to connect educators with
business, explore innovative curricula, and invest in the professional
development of teachers, counselors, and administrators. Employers' role
includes developing courses that prepare students for highly skilled jobs,
hiring qualified graduates of school-to-work programs, and reinforcing what is
learned in the classroom. Labor organizations can assist in planning and
offering high-quality training and work experience. They can also provide
employment information and collaborate with state and local officials on
employment opportunities. The role of community-based organizations is to plan
programs that reach all youth and serve as a mediator between sectors.
Finally, the role of community colleges is to bring all these sectors
together to form effective school-to-work systems. Partnerships among the
sectors are critical to the success of the enterprise and community colleges
have the experience to effectively carry this out.
SOME ISSUES TO CONSIDER
Since the passage of the STWOA in
1994, organizations, community college administrators, and interested parties
have communicated and exchanged information via the Internet. The discussions
occurring on-line reflect some of the salient issues at the grass-roots level
that community college professionals are grappling with. Highlights of some of
the issues include the following.
What is the company's legal liability for student apprentices and students in
Consistent assessment, outcomes measurement, and communicati on networks are
expensive to maintain. What happens after the initial implementation funding
How will accountability be measured? Who controls the standards for
accountability--employers or educators?
Quality. How do community college school-to-work educators and professionals
ensure that there are employer-driven, structured work-based learning
opportunities for young people?
These are a few of the issues that are currently being discussed. As
school-to-work initiatives progress others will arise. Community colleges,
employers, government, and community-based organizations will continue to be
challenged by issues like the ones presented and others yet unknown.
With continued effort toward establishing a
secondary-postsecondary link, effective transition programs, and collaborative
partnerships, community colleges are becoming the facilitators of school-to-work
systems. They are the catalysts that will bring education and business together.
The challenges of the 21st century need community colleges to tackle the issues
that arise collectively with secondary education, employers, labor, and
community organizations in order to succeed in this national effort. An
educated, highly skilled, and efficient workforce benefits our economic system,
our workforce, and ultimately our citizenry.
American Association for Community Colleges. The
Critical Link: Community Colleges and the Workforce. Washington, DC: AACC, 1993.
(ED 368 427)
California Community Colleges. School-to-Work Transition: Vocational
Education Resources Package. Sacramento: Office of the Chancellor, 1993. (ED 357
Carnevale, A.P., Gainer, L.J. The Learning Enterprise. Alexandria, VA:
American Society for Training and Development, 1989. (ED 304 581)
Jacobs, J. "Vocational Education and General Education: New Relationship or
Shotgun Marriage?" New Directions for Community Colleges, No. 81. San Francisco:
Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring. School-to-Work Transition
Task Force Report. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Alliance for Restructuring, 1992.
School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994. U.S. Public Law 103-239. 103rd
Congress. May 4, 1994.
Department of Education. Goals 2000 and School-to-Work Opportunities
Information Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Education, 1994a.
.... Tech Prep and School-to-Work Opportunities Information Bulletin.
Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Education, 1994b.
.... School-to-Work Opportunities: Common Questions, with Answers.
Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Education, 1994c.