Seeking Solutions to Strengthen Career Pathways

Dr. JaNice Marshall is a teaching professor and doctoral cohort coordinator for Kansas State University’s John E. Roueche Center for Community College Leadership.Dr. JaNice Marshall is a teaching professor and doctoral cohort coordinator for Kansas State University’s John E. Roueche Center for Community College Leadership.Today, some of our country’s communities are engaged in conversations about talent pipeline shortages, challenges, and opportunities. At Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), college leaders continue to be involved in strategic discussions throughout Northeast Ohio with a diverse group of partners about solutions to connect people to family-sustaining wage jobs. When Achieving the Dream (ATD) launched an innovative regional Professional Learning Community (PLC) project to strengthen career pathways for communities, the college eagerly applied and was awarded a grant to participate.

“This initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of our community colleges to serve as hubs for regional Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) that convene high school educators, community college faculty, and representatives from local employers and workforce agencies,” Dr. Karen Stout says in the award notification. “These PLCs will work to strengthen college-to-career pathways for their students, contextualized to the unique strengths and needs in each community.”

Tri-C’s aim was to:

• help more scholars from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) finish high school with increased awareness of the healthcare industry through exploration of careers, and high school career-technical education programs,

• create a model for an innovative and competitive talent pipeline that could be replicated for other industry sectors,

• learn together about what was currently happening in this space with a commitment not to duplicate, but to align the work, and

• assure that scholars gained the necessary skills and/or credentials, and an academic and career plan focused on healthcare.

Why healthcare?

Our region has a large healthcare industry with a significantly unmet employment demand exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these careers are associated with a degree or other credential (or pathway) at the College. Team NEO, in its 2019 Aligning Opportunities Report, zeroes in on the talent shortage facing three sectors of the economy — IT, manufacturing, and healthcare. “Between those three sectors, there are about 39,000 unfilled,” says Jacob Duritsky, Team NEO’s vice president of strategy and research. Duritsky says it will take long-term, complementary regional solutions to fully connect the dots between the available workforce and available job openings.”

Getting started

Serving as a regional hub for our K-12, business, and industry partners, thought leaders and others, Tri-C launched our PLC with a focus to:

• design solutions needed to address barriers to effective education and workforce preparation through strategic K-16-workforce connections leading to healthcare jobs and careers

• build and align the learning with Ohio Tech Prep, Workforce Connect Partnership, and CMSD’s PACE initiative

Cuyahoga Community College has partnerships with K-12 districts dating back more than 50 years and focused on academic, career, and workforce readiness.

Lessons learned

We have established a more cohesive alignment of partners who are working to build broader awareness, exploration, and preparation for academic and career success for middle and high school students in Cleveland. Scholars, families, and educators need a graphical map or view of the healthcare pathway to better guide students’ exploration, work-based learning experiences, and completion of technical and academic skills necessary for credentials and degrees. Deeper conversations were launched between local career-technical center Ohio Tech Prep Northeast Region, and Cuyahoga Community College.

“Educators and employers often speak different languages, have different goals, and use different strategies to achieve success. That said, employers are often eager and willing to partner with schools, but this isn’t always easy,” according to Dr. Amy Loyd, assistant secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Other takeaways include braiding or blending funds to create sustainable pathways.

Next steps and current work

In 2022-23, the Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation will launch a Middle School Outreach and Enrichment Program pilot in collaboration with healthcare professional schools. CMSD and the Polaris Career Center will also build on this plan which includes tours of the college's healthcare programs; hospital on-site exploration with physicians, therapists, and technicians; visits with high school career technical education sites; and Saturday sessions with scholars and families.   

Dr. JaNice Marshall serves as college-wide vice president for access & community connections at Cuyahoga Community College. Marshall is a teaching professor and doctoral cohort coordinator for Kansas State University’s John E. Roueche Center for Community College Leadership.

The Roueche Center Forum is co-edited by Drs. John E. Roueche and Margaretta B. Mathis of the John E. Roueche Center for Community College Leadership, Department of Educational Leadership, College of Education, Kansas State University.