An ambitious new partnership between the nonprofit Education Design Lab and Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) aims to design employer-driven pathways that will “upskill” highly-qualified healthcare professionals to high-growth careers in the region.
Backed by a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the partnership draws on VWCC’s reach as the state’s third-largest community college to meet growing demand from the region’s fast-growing medical centers.
Rooted in the Education Design Lab’s learner-centric design process, the program will align short-term training programs with skills required for in-demand positions, such as registered nurses, medical assistants and administrators.
The announcement comes at a time when many feel the opportunity to upskill–training employees to give them additional skills to advance in their careers–is important for employers. More than half of respondents (56 percent) in a recent survey say they believe today’s employers are not adequately preparing workers with future-forward tech skills.
The survey, conducted by Researchscape for Coding Dojo, measures consumer attitudes about technology skills and offers insights into how employers can upskill the tech workforce and improve tech literacy.
The results highlight how colleges and universities have to prove their return on investment for students who are increasingly more eager to learn about cultivating skills and post-graduation career prospects than athletics programs or campus social life.
Data from labor market analytics company Emsi shows that, across the Roanoke region, demand for certified medical assistants will grow by 28 percent by 2028, with healthcare information management vacancies up 33 percent, and demand for registered nurses up 25 percent.
“In hiring markets around the country, community colleges are becoming the catalyst to help regional employers co-create models that address the critical skills-gap,” says Kathleen DeLaski, president and founder of Education Design Lab. “Together, we’re working to design flexible higher education pathways that can increase economic mobility for underserved learners and supply talent for southwestern Virginia.”
Beginning this spring, VWCC will kick off a six-month design challenge facilitated by Education Design Lab. As part of the process, faculty, staff, students, and employers will collaborate to redesign the student experience.
The partnership comes as the Commonwealth of Virginia is investing significant new resources in local workforce development, including a $5 million investment in new state funding to restructure state workforce training programs.
After completing the initial design project with Education Design Lab, VWCC plans to replicate the process to create short-term credentials for other high-growth industries, including manufacturing, IT/computer science, and early childhood education.
“The Education Design Lab brings new vision to workforce development in an era where we must take bold steps to accelerate wage growth and close skills gaps in our health care system,” says Robert Sandel, president of Virginia Western Community College. “Stackable credentials will enable us to align our community college courses with the skills and competencies that aspiring healthcare professionals need, while meeting the needs of employers—and community health—alike.”