Rethinking the Mission: Community Colleges and Workforce Education

Community colleges are well positioned to provide workforce education and training: they have experience training adults, they have a history of keeping costs low, and many have decades of experience providing technical education and training. 

This policy brief by Tamar Jacoby, writing for the American Enterprise Institute, aims to answer the question of how 2-year community colleges can offer more and more effective workforce training programs to better prepare learners to satisfy labor market needs. The brief envisions an approach that draws on the present, robust 2-year college infrastructure to ensure learning is balanced, aligned with market demand, and informed and supported by employers. Five state policy levers are examined, including: 

  • A state mandate to shift the mission of community colleges
  • Performance-based funding
  • Better use of data
  • Extending lifelong learning opportunities
  • Engaging employers

The paper further offers recommendations for action steps state policymakers can take to act on these policy levers. This comprehensive resources lays out a national landscape and provides an actionable plan for rethinking the mission of 2-year community colleges around workforce education and training.