With support from The Joyce Foundation, the AACC Center for Workforce and Economic Development (the Center) worked with community colleges in the “Shifting Gears” states of Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Over the course of the project, the Center aimed to promote the best practices from the initial communities to common practices throughout the AACC membership network. The Center incorporated experience and feedback from workforce and community college connections within the Shifting Gears states to better understand where federal and state policy could be levers for changes and how low-skilled and low-income workers could better meet employer requirements, improve industry productivity and their own individual standard of living.
The Shifting Gears states faced a range of regional economic challenges, various leadership structures and configurations, as well as approaches to regional economic development. The Center scanned these variations and developed practical information and recommendations to inform and influence policy and operational decisions by senior officers in community colleges along with their community stakeholders.
States were examined in the following areas:
- Assigning greater value to workforce and economic development within the colleges
- Increasing capacity to access and use Labor Market Information and other data in fact-based decisions
- Increasing capacity to be good partners and play effective roles in developing and implementing regional growth strategies
- Increasing active business engagement in assessing effective technical training programs
On the ground, the Center structured the work involving 11 community colleges in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio and the statewide system of Indiana at Ivy Tech.
The Center created a "Map of State Policies, Legislation and Rules for Community Colleges" completed through phone interviews, stakeholder meetings and online research. This document was to provide an overview of effective practices for the Shifting Gears states. Its other purpose was to guide the Center to encourage successful elements in low-income and low-skilled workers programs to become models for businesses and communities across the country.