Updates on FLATE’s partnership with Rutgers’ University Education and Employment Research Center (EERC) – Hidden Innovation Infrastructure: Understanding the Economic Development Role of Technician Education in the Changing Future of Work (HII)

Dr. Barger, Senior Educational Advisor for FLATE, has served as a co-principal investigator for an NSF ATE-funded Technician Education Research (NSF 2026262) project since 2020. This project is researching community college technical programs' contributions to and interactions with local and regional economic development organizations. Details about the HII project and other research projects related to community college workforce programs can be found here. (https://sites.rutgers.edu/eerc-hii/).

Over the 2023 Winter break, the HII project released a publication sharing its conceptual model that has evolved during the research phase of this project -- The Community College Role in Economic Development: A Conceptual Model. This new report outlines the role of community colleges in economic development. It defines both model inputs and outputs with examples including inclusive economic development. The report provides some ideas and opportunities for community colleges to begin engaging with their local and regional economic development agencies plus outcomes they can anticipate from these engagements.

Additionally, the Hidden Innovation Infrastructure project has developed 3 interactive data visualization tools that can provide charts or graphs of trends over time of graduates per career and technical education program by name, nationally, by state, or for multiple states. Another of these “data tools” can provide trends over time for jobs by technician occupation. These tools can quickly provide a visualization of these trends that can help community college workforce personnel compare current to past trends and map that information to economic trends and “happenings” for the industry sector of interest. All 3 tools are free to use based on national Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

Read more about these tools and try them out by going to the Data Tools menu item under Products on the Rutgers HII website. To get some ideas on how these tools have been used, there are issue briefs detailing the use of the tools under the Publications link (also under Products on the site).

There are many potential benefits for community colleges to engage with these organizations and some can be gleaned from these reports. Educators can find other reports and case studies from this project including promising practices at some specific colleges that are engaged with their economic development, workforce, and other community organizations.
The Rutgers Education and Employment Research Center has conducted a wealth of research focused on many aspects of Community College workforce programs and initiatives that can support all community colleges working in this space. In the fast-evolving landscape of technical education and training, degrees, certificates, and credentials, it’s a resource not to be overlooked. Please check out the HII project and the many other publications documenting a wide range of topics pertinent to college faculty, administrators, and advocates.

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