More information is crucial to document the value of noncredit workforce education for individuals. These efforts need to be supported, and the documentation refined, to provide real information and feedback to colleges and to justify continued funding for noncredit. These efforts would also enable individuals and employers to make informed decisions about their investments of time and resources in noncredit workforce education.
Research on the perspectives of employers could help inform the way that community colleges develop, target, and operate their noncredit workforce programs. The case study colleges indicated that employers seek locally-based solutions from community colleges and, thus, may value a range of outcomes based on their labor market and specific needs. However, the presence of state funds to support industry and sector-based initiatives highlights the importance of these solutions at the state and regional level. Since noncredit programs operate in a wider context of workforce development programs that include the reporting requirements of the Workforce Investment Act, which demands a greater amount of data on outcomes, more information is needed on which outcomes best reflect the contributions of noncredit workforce education in the economy overall. Furthermore, as states fund noncredit workforce education and develop more reporting requirements, they can seek to promote and support better collection and use of data to evaluate outcomes. States can also benefit from coordinating their data reporting requirements with each other, which would allow them to learn from other states and make cross-state comparisons. State reporting and evaluation efforts must be conducted in close collaboration with local colleges, however, since their programs can reflect very localized needs and should be evaluated in the context of those needs. Colleges need to use their internal resources to generate appropriate data on outcomes for their specific programs. Given the lack of basic data even on enrollments in community college noncredit workforce education, obtaining information on outcomes will require great effort. As states and colleges 54 invest more resources in noncredit workforce education, outcome data will help to determine if their programs are meeting the needs of students and employers and adequately addressing broad state workforce and economic development needs.
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