The Landscape of Noncredit Workforce Education: State Policies and Community College Practices
Postsecondary noncredit education has become increasingly common in recent years, and at many community colleges, noncredit education enrolls more students than credit programs. Much of the growth has occurred in courses connected with workforce instruction and contract training. These programs are noted for their important role in responding to shifting workforce demands and providing skills in a way that is flexible and responsive to employer needs. The growth in community college noncredit workforce education raises fundamental questions about whether the colleges are keeping pace with student and workforce needs, using resources efficiently, and providing access to all students. The answers may challenge current state policies and college practices. Noncredit workforce education can play an important role in responding to local labor market demands by meeting the workforce needs of employers and the needs of students for immediate skills. It can also benefit students in other ways by providing access to credit programs, generating meaningful recorded outcomes for a range of student needs, and facilitating the long term pursuit of degrees. Community college noncredit workforce education can have a central role in states that choose to prioritize funding to support career pathways as part of their workforce development agenda by connecting short-term training to programs leading to degrees and credentials.
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