Retraining the Gulf Coast Workforce through IT Pathways Consortium

In Louisiana, job losses in trade-affected industries such as auto manufacturing, shipbuilding, and furniture accelerated during the recession of the late 2000s and early 2010s; in Mississippi, manufacturing was particularly hard hit by foreign competition. But amidst the tight economy and slow recovery, one of the few bright spots is the steady and growing demand in Information Technology (IT). Responding to this need and opportunity, The Retraining the Gulf Coast Workforce through Information Technology Pathways Consortium (GCIT) developed evidence-based IT career pathway programs leading to industry-valued credentials for 2,771 Trade Adjustment Act impacted workers, veterans, and adults without a high school diploma or equivalent.

As a lead partner, the NCTN helped GCIT leadership align with other partners and systems to support project implementation and to ensure that the initiative’s integrated career pathways met the region’s growing demand for skilled IT workers. Integrating Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) as an option in career pathways was a major component of the initiative’s work. (PLA is the process by which one’s experiential learning is evaluated for the granting of college-level credit, certification, or advanced standing toward further education.)

With the NCTN’s guidance, colleges conducted an assessment of current best practices related to PLA and either developed new policies or strengthened existing ones. For instance, the NCTN supported institutions as they developed appropriate challenge exams to assess student competence in different certain content areas. Developing PLA policies was noted as especially helpful by colleges implementing programs on the non-credit side of the institution. With PLA in place, non-credit students had a mechanism for translating their non-credit coursework into academic credit. (The Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative, 2016.) To ensure a streamlined approach to PLA, the NCTN worked in collaboration with the Mississippi Community College Board and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

The enhanced provision of support services was another key component of the Consortium’s approach to building integrated IT career pathways. The NCTN helped GCIT colleges to better assess, strengthen, align, leverage, and coordinate the array of campus and community support services that foster student persistence.

Project Director: Ellen Hewett, Director of the National College Transition Network

Funder: U.S. Department of Labor