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MoWINs: Creating Win-Wins through Partnerships

The EvoLLLution | MoWINs: Creating Win-Wins through Partnerships
Despite not existing within a formal system, Missouri’s two-year colleges are working together to forge partnerships, maximize resources and create opportunities for each college to grow, while also improving outcomes for both adult learners and employers.
Beginning in 2011, Missouri’s community and technical colleges banded together to apply for three rounds of the Department of Labor’s TAACCCT grant program. Since the consortium was formed, thousands of unemployed or underemployed Missourians have benefited from the creation or transformation of more than 100 programs as a direct result of the consortium. The impact of these grants goes beyond the students served. The innovations from the TAACCCT grant programs are bringing transformative change to each respective institution’s partnering employers and the public workforce system.

The Missouri Workforce Innovation Network (MoWINs) supports the development of Missouri’s two-year community and technical colleges’ innovative approaches to addressing current and future workforce-credentialed job training needs in the state’s five high-demand industries: information technology, transportation and logistics, bio sciences, health services/science, and advanced manufacturing. MoWINs consists of three state-wide workforce career training projects: MoHealthWINs (MHW), MoManufacturingWINs (MMW), and MoSTEMWINs (MSW). A key factor contributing to many MoWINs successes were formative partnerships.

Since 2011, Missouri’s MoWINs consortium was successful in attaining three TAACCCT grants totaling $55 million, which has served more than 11,700 adult learners in key industry-credentialed programs of study that support a skilled workforce for those in-demand occupations state-wide. In a state where community colleges are a decentralized system, the Missouri Community College Association (MCCA) serves as the consortium’s administrative entity by providing project leadership, guidance and resources to all 13 two-year publicly funded institutions. Missouri’s community college leaders joined alliances to begin collaborating as a system through MoWINs to address key higher education reform strategies. Such strategies include the implementation of stackable credentials, expanding access and accelerating progress for low-skilled and other workers, improving retention and completions rates, reducing time to completion, building programs that meet industry needs, including developing career pathways, and strengthening online and technology-enabled learning.

Through the alliance, these colleges committed to fostering formal partnerships with key grant stakeholders that share a common goal: building and sustaining a skilled workforce.

As $2 billion for four rounds of TAACCCT grant funds were rolling out to participating community colleges, the public workforce system’s budget was being sequestrated by Congress. But the grant projects took advantage of an opportunity to retain established partnerships and build new ones. The grant management leaders’ approach was to broker these partnerships with new grant-supported workforce tools that would help partners serve the same target populations.

One gift provided funding for real-time labor market information (LMI) data subscriptions that both entities could utilize and benefit from immediately and long after the grant life cycle. Today, these LMI tools are still managed by the Missouri Economic Research & Information Center (MERIC), the research division for the Missouri Department of Economic Development, providing innovative workforce quantitative data analyses and assistance to state, local, economic and higher education policymakers and leaders, as well as the public. Through the MoWINs grant partnership, MERIC was able to begin producing real-time live labor market regional and state-wide LMI tools through Burning Glass Technologies, an analytics software providing data on job growth, in-demand skills, and labor market trends. This information was used to further enhance workforce and academic advising services for our target population. Samples of these advising tools, like the Career Pathway Industry Summary briefings, are utilized state-wide and are now made readily available through the MERIC website here. By working with our state and local public workforce partners, the MoWINs grant fostered a relationship that directly resulted in both partners achieving higher success when advising their customers in common labor markets about appropriate career pathway training programs of study available within their respective community colleges. This benefited employers and students alike by enabling learners to attain skill sets that support finding job skills training opportunities directly aligned with industry career pathway occupations in their region of the state.

An additional grant gift partnership resulted in the Missouri School Credentials for Occupations Resulting in Employment Success (MoSCORES) data system. During the Great Recession, Missouri’s community colleges experienced all-time high enrollments from displaced workers into non-credit workforce job-credentialed training programs. These enrollment numbers exceeded credit-seeking traditional student enrollments at the colleges; unfortunately, there was no single data system in place to collect non-credit student performance data and help the colleges measure their return on investment. Grant management leadership approached MERIC with another TAACCCT supplemental funding partnership opportunity to build and implement a single non-credit student performance data system, much like the 2009 credit-bearing student Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI). The stars aligned to further support building better partnerships among Missouri’s community colleges, the public workforce system, and Missouri’s employers and state government agencies. Two things happened simultaneously: First, the federal Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) was passed with new federal reporting requirements in approved eligible training providers and alignment of all common core workforce performance measures. Second, Missouri enacted its first ever higher education performance funding legislation at the state level. The grant leaders were successful in attaining an additional $4.7 TAACCCT funding supplemental grant to support the design and implementation of such a system: MoSCORES. We began with a “super agency” memorandum of understanding from 2009 to formalize partnerships, redefine roles and add any necessary new partners. In fact, many data sharing agreements were put into place that further supported the project, including a new section to support cyber security (which wasn’t in existence back in 2009). After four years of monthly meetings engaging 65 staff members from all partners—an army of volunteers from MCCA and all community colleges, including Missouri’s higher education agencies, state workforce leaders, state government leaders in labor, wage and economic development, along with the grant management leadership team who spent hundreds of hours discussing and designing what this new state performance scorecard system could and would be—the MoSCORES system was launched in July 2018.

The MoSCOREs system aligns all core workforce performance measures for credit and non-credit students, as well as all higher education institutions reporting data to the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE). With the MoWINs grant retiring on September 30, 2018, the MoSCORES system will reside within MDHE. This new public and private web-based performance scorecard will link Missouri’s workforce and education performance data systematically to provide a user-friendly aggregated wage explorer tool where you can search by college, occupation, wage, or region to aid in career pathway planning, training programs availability and costs, and occupations within the state.

The goal of this massive web of partnerships was to develop and implement the first ever state-wide non-credit workforce longitudinal secure data warehouse that connects student records through social security, de-identifies them, and then links the data across the agencies. The system outcome products are an online public wage explorer tool displaying the various Missouri workforce training outcomes, and a public aggregated tool, with downloadable information that maintains confidentiality and low maintenance costs long after the grant funds end. As well as better data context to include labor market information, wage employment and demographic measures are available for long-term analysis of outcomes by school and program. As a result of this undertaking, Missouri’s workforce non-credit job training programs now have a data warehouse that can collect and produce program performance reports to support state and local investments in building and sustaining their workforce programs of study.

Another goal, spearheaded by the leadership of the MoWINs project director, college leaders, and their respective workforce boards, was the implementation of co-enrollment and a “no wrong door” approach for the same target population being served by both entities. Formal memorandums of understanding were implemented where each partner’s roles were defined to reduce duplication of services, and data-sharing agreements were put into place in order to validate common performance outcomes. The no wrong door approach resulted in reverse referrals, which decreased the possibility of a potential participant not gaining access to either partner’s services. Many colleges and workforce boards saw this as an opportunity to reimagine how they deliver their respective services. For some, co-location of staff members was tested and implemented. Today, both parties are revisiting their MOUs to evaluate what has worked best and how to sustain and scale the initiative to other similar programs, such as those serving SNAP recipients who are also enrolled in workforce training programs of study.

An added hallmark of MoWINs has been the level at which employers, workforce and community partners have been able to engage in curriculum development. Every consortium college was required to work with its local job center to recruit students, and in several cases the colleges placed staff members in the job center to assist with recruitment and enrollment efforts. To engage employers, colleges involved businesses in program design, and as a result, employer partners have taken a new interest in many of the programs, which has led to much stronger partnerships. For example, Metropolitan Community College quadrupled the size of its employer advisory board by bringing 48 area employers together to address the need for skilled machinists. As part of their partnership with the college, these companies helped with curriculum development and are offering paid internships for students who enroll in the 18-week, 23-credit-hour CIMM certificate program. The partnership even developed a 501c3 that will bring further support to the college from the private sector.

At Algoa Correctional Center, the State Technical College of Missouri is continuing to develop a strong partnership that will remain active long after the grant expires, and will scale as new grants are launched (supporting the reduction of recidivism). The initiative creates an accelerated entry into grant funded programs by allowing offenders to commit to education and achieve a stackable credential while incarcerated. When released, credit for prior learning (CPL) allows participants to enter the grant-funded class, which fills their education plan. The career pathway map is a very encouraging tool for inmates, as they can see what they can accomplish upon their release. This partnership has involved several different entities aside from the college and the correctional center, including the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, the Missouri Department of Corrections, and the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce.

The MoWINs consortium has exceeded grant expectations in many of the performance objectives set, from the number of adult learners enrolled, to completers, to the number of participants who found employment following the grant. But more importantly, the return on investment in the partnerships, whether it be a renewed or newly established partnership, were found to be a win-win for all. Not only did the MoWINs projects move the needle in increasing college retention and completion rates, they also aided the public workforce system in increasing their performance measures, while providing Missouri’s employers across the state with a skilled and ready workforce talent pool.

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