Aiming to Meet Workforce Needs: An Evaluation of the Economic and Workforce Development Program

by | Feb 2016

February 2016

California’s dynamic economy depends on having a large and skilled workforce; consequently, the state must continually support and refine efforts to provide workers with employer-valued competencies. Given the wide range of regional and state needs across this vast state, ensuring that the workforce has the training to keep up with labor market demands is difficult. The California Community Colleges’ (CCC) Economic and Workforce Development Program (EWD) aims to support the development of a workforce that will promote California’s economic development by connecting employers and educators. This report summarizes the findings of an independent evaluation conducted on EWD.

EWD aims to “invest in California’s economic growth and global competitiveness through industry-specific education, training, and services that contribute to a highly-skilled and productive workforce.” To support its mission, EWD created a new structure focused on regional and sector service delivery. Each region selected five sectors—three priority and two emergent based on their rapid growth, high demand for workers, and well-paying jobs.

To provide services, EWD employs:

  • Sector navigators (SNs) to serve as statewide experts in their sector
  • Deputy sector navigators (DSNs) to address a given sector’s unique regional needs
  • Industry-driven regional collaboratives (IDRCs) to deliver short-term projects devoted to specific regional workforce needs
  • Technical assistance providers (TAPs) to provide support to the SNs and DSNs, including the Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research (CoE) and LaunchBoard (a data system that tracks student progress and outcomes)

This is the culminating report of the legislatively-mandated independent evaluation of EWD. The evaluation focused on three main components: the processes by which grantees operated (roles, coordination, funding, data use); the services offered; and the outcomes. Our review of these components are based on our perceptions. We were not able to observe activities, nor did we have access to data that would allow us to estimate outcomes. From July to December 2016, we analyzed quantitative data and grantee accountability reports provided by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), conducted 46 grantee interviews, and administered surveys to 110 participants comprised of grantees, career technical education (CTE) deans, regional consortia chairs, and employers. While we were able to gather rich information from EWD grantees, including SNs, DSNs, IDRCs, and TAPs, we faced significant barriers in other aspects of the evaluation. The quick timeline of this work limited our capacity to gather information from stakeholders. The design of EWD lacked a comparison group, and our inability to access relevant data forced us to make many concessions in reporting outcomes and to be unable to make causal claims about the program’s effectiveness.

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Policy Brief: How the EWD Program Aims to Meet Workforce Needs

After the California State Legislature reauthorized EWD in 2012, the CCCCO created a new structure for the program based on seven geographic regions. Each region selected five rapid-growth, high-demand industry/business sectors, and EWD services in each region were targeted to those sectors. This brief outlines perceived strengths and weaknesses of this restructured program and offers recommendations for improvement.

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