By Lanissa Patterson
Pima Community College was selected for the inaugural cohort of the Education Design Lab’s (EDL) Community College Growth Engine Fund.
The EDL is a nonprofit organization that is granting $100,000 to fund higher education in community colleges and provide micro-pathways to find work in the industry.
“In brief [micro-pathways] are shorter bursts or periods of training that are sometimes taken through credit coursework but sometimes they are taken in a noncredit format,” said Ian Roark, Vice President of Workforce Development and Strategic Partnerships.
PCC was one of six colleges that were selected for the Growth Engine Fund. The College is projected to help 600 underemployed southern Arizonans find work in key economic sectors.
“The areas that we selected for the community college growth engine fund were already areas that we were working towards offering more opportunities,” said Roark, Vice President of Workforce Development and Strategic Partnerships.
With the help of EDL, students will get to choose career pathways inManufacturing, Information Technology, Cyber Security, and Construction and Emergency Medical Services.
These “micro-pathways”will be offered as non-credit coursework that can be used to quickly connect learners with employers in some of the highest career growth occupations in the region, according to a press release from last month.
“We are still in the entry level of designing some of these [courses],” said Roark. “The goal is for a micro pathway to be around one semester. Some of them will be longer because the skillset necessitates and some perhaps might be shorter,”
According to a PCC press release, the college will be working closely with employers, regional stakeholders and “will draw on market research from the Federal Reserve Bank Offices to identify the most in demand careers in the Southwest.”
Pima aims to “help low-wage and entry level workers advance into roles that pay at least median wage.”
Roark said “it’s our imperative to make sure we are providing the types of education and training models that not only prepare people for entry into the workforce at a family sustaining wage, but that we can continue to be that provider that can give them the skills they are going to need for the rest of their careers.”
According to Crispin Jeffrey-Franco, Director of Business Development and Engagement, it will take some time for these non credit courses to be available.
“We are still very early in the actual design phase,” Franco said. “We are still several months before being able to bring these to students to learners to actually be able to enroll. We know workers are needing opportunities now and we are working as hard as we can to bring these as fast as we can.”
Unfortunately in Arizona, noncredit courses are ineligible for financial aid. However, many employers are sponsoring workers to be enrolled in these programs, according to Roark
“Hopefully we will see some movement at the federal level for federal financial aid dollars to be broadened to be applied for these programs but that has not happened yet.”