Today on Teaching & Learning Champions – The Podcast, we’re joined by Gretchen Riehl, ACC’s Associate Vice President for Workforce Education, and Daniel Chupe-Ohanlon, ACC’s Institutional Effectiveness Analyst with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Accountability. We’re talking about the impact that Guided Pathways has on ensuring students are ready for the workforce.

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Episode Transcript

[Matt Evins:] Welcome to another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. I’m Matt Evins, Director of Instructional Technology and Digital Resources in the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division at ACC. Today I’m joined by Gretchen Riehl, Associate Vice President for Workforce Education, and Daniel Chupe-Ohanlon, Institutional Effectiveness Analyst with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Accountability. Today we’re talking about the impact that Guided Pathways has on ensuring students are ready for the workforce. Gretchen and Daniel, thank you for joining me. 

[Gretchen Riehl:] My pleasure. Glad to be here. 

[Daniel Chupe-Ohanlon:] Pleasure, I look forward. 

[Matt Evins:] Great. Let’s get started. Daniel, what is the market labor data telling us in terms of what our students need to be competitive when entering the job market? 

[Daniel Chupe-Ohanlon:] Thank you for talking to me, Matt. The labor market is showing various elements that our students need, specifically the need that our students should have– and there’s really two that stand out to me. The first is the need for marketable skills. The ability to both describe and understand and implement those skills to talk about what those skills are. Marketable skills are more than just the soft skills, the hard skills. They’re the blend of everything. What we’re finding in the business market and in the business literature and labor market information is that that’s what they’re driving for. Skill-based, skill-driven outcomes. The second piece is a little more intuitive to us being here at the college is that thirst of knowledge that is inquisitiveness or you might know it as lifelong learning. The next generation of students, the next generation of the workforce, is trending to show that employees– our students– will need to keep up with a fast-paced changing dynamic and immersive set of knowledge. On average, students in the next generation will have three to nine occupations. That’s a lot of growing and changing, so that lifelong learning to always come back, that’s a need. 

[Matt Evins:] Great. Gretchen, in thinking about that, how do the workforce departments at ACC use this data and this information to shape the way that instruction is delivered to the students? 

[Gretchen Riehl:] Well, we use it in a number of ways. One of the main uses is to identify new programs that we want to start or programs that need to be expanded, certificates we might add to existing programs, or programs that we want to sunset that are no longer viable because the workforce has changed. The environment has changed. We also want to assure that the programs are teaching the correct skills, as Daniel mentioned, and assist with helping students know, you know, how their skills fit into the workplace, what are the kinds of companies that are hiring, what are they looking for, how do they go about structuring their job search, how do they go about– what can they learn from their internships, those kinds of things. We also use advisory committees for all of our workforce programs that are made out of primarily hiring managers at businesses with that focus and so we share this information with them too and have conversations with them to make sure we’re delivering students with the right kinds of skills. 

[Matt Evins:] Great. Daniel, you have a lot of relationships with business partners around the city. Do you have any anecdotal information or data from them on how Guided Pathways is currently helping or can help students be more workforce ready? 

[Daniel Chupe-Ohanlon:] Well, at this point, the data from the labor market on the effects of Guided Pathways is limited, but what I do understand and I do know firsthand is that the pathways– if you put that in quotes– the pathways conversation has spurred that much deeper and a more robust conversation with our partners, leading back to the advisory councils. The conversations are– they’re getting in deeper to the data and understanding what is that dynamic move and the dynamic set of skills and occupations, what’s changing. In some fields, it’s moving faster than lightning and so that conversation and those relationships are much deeper and much stronger and happening much more regularly and frequently. That’s the biggest effect that I am seeing right now. 

[Matt Evins:] Gretchen, with a large contingency of our college’s adjunct faculty also working in the industries, what type of feedback have you received from those faculty about how Guided Pathways impacts not only the courses they’re teaching, but also how it relates to their workforce readiness? 

[Gretchen Riehl:] Thank you, Matt. That’s a really important distinction on the workforce side. Not only do a large portion of our adjunct faculty work– have, you know, have day jobs essentially, we require all of our faculty to have a minimum of three years non-teaching experience in their field. And the reason we do that– and it’s for both– for both entities. We do that to make sure that the skills we’re teaching are up to date and that the skills are taught in the way that students need to have them. So, for example– I’m going to give you two examples. Several years ago, in the automotive program, we added a track on hybrid vehicles as hybrid vehicles started coming out. Having a close connection to the workforce keeps our pulse on those kinds of things. Similarly, in our surgical tech program, we several years ago bought some surgical laparoscopic simulators because almost all surgery now– probably 80% of surgery now is done laparoscopically. So, the students need to know how to manipulate those instruments and equipment, which are different than the instruments and equipment for an open operation. So, those are just two examples, but we are constantly tweaking the curriculum to make sure we stay up with technological advances and our having adjuncts who work currently in the field, they can come back and say, you know, we just got this new piece of equipment or we just got that new piece of equipment. Another example from automotive, everything’s computer diagnostics now. That wasn’t the case even probably 15 years ago. And another thing they can help us do– all of our workforce programs have to have a minimum of 15 hours of general education courses, like English and speech and philosophy and those kind of things. Often, our adjuncts and advisory committees– it’s kind of both hand– help us identify if there is a specific general education course that we should require all students to take rather than allowing them to pick anything from a list. An example would be in health sciences, for language philosophy and culture, we pretty much ask them to take the ethics class because that– they all need a strong understanding of ethics and so they can fulfill that area of the core and fulfill some requirements from our business partners, our hiring employees. So– hiring employers. So, that’s how we– that’s one way– two ways that we use that knowledge, but it’s very important to us. 

[Matt Evins:] Do you find that having that requirement of the adjuncts have a set amount of experience outside of education as well as continuously looking at what new technologies are out there– you had mentioned the medical equipment and things like that– do you think that it gives our students a leg up when it comes to entering the workforce because they have the experience around these types of new and up and coming technologies that other students at other institutions may not have? 

[Gretchen Riehl:] I like to think so [laughter]. So, it– and it’s not just adjuncts that have to have three years of non-teaching experience; it’s all faculty in workforce programs have to have three years of non-teaching work experience. But, yes, I think when you compare our students to, say, four-year graduates in a similar programs, they do have more practical knowledge. They may not have as deep theoretical knowledge, but they do have the practical knowledge and often can hit the ground running much quicker than other folks or folks who haven’t been through our programs. For example, in automotive where you can hire people off the street, but they don’t have the detailed knowledge and they take a lot more training. 

[Matt Evins:] Sure. Great. Daniel, what services does the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Accountability offer to faculty to help them consider workforce data when either designing or redesigning their courses? 

[Daniel Chupe-Ohanlon:] Well, I’ll start with– wow, that’s a loaded question and I’ll try to contain the expectations with my answer. It’s important first to know that labor market information is not just the world of– the word workforce. Labor market information is much broader and it supports all efforts in both the traditional workforce, if you call that, but also the data that I supply does support work and discussions and changes in the transfer program. So, it’s both. Labor market is all-encompassing, all-everything, and that’s sort of the word I use is labor market or LMI, labor market information, versus using the acronym workforce which then some people become concept that it’s just the workforce and doesn’t include transfer. It is much more. So, currently I do offer and what OIA does offer is we help with delivery of small sets of data and analysis as needed because it’s something new that the college is doing. I’ve been doing labor work and labor market research for probably four or five years, but we’re just beginning to embed it into new processes and start those conversations. So, it’s the short-term, they need something, there was a response that was needed for the current bachelor of arts program and I was able to turn around some information fairly quick that was– met a need. Future demand, though, the future demand is really interesting. I’m working with both the instructional AVPs, the various VPs, instructional development, and TLED unit to develop reports– yet to be determined– that will be meaningful, informative, and that support data-driven decisions. The goal of this in the near future is to bring together a small taskforce of faculty, both on the workforce and the transfer side, to help me create those reports. I have tons of data. I don’t need to drown them in it. I want to make what’s actionable and what’s useful for them, so that’s– I’m going to ask the faculty to bring in their expertise and work with me. It’s that partnership– partnership from the general assembly– between OIA and faculty that make the change to be meaningful, purposeful, regular, and directed communications. I can supply the subject matter expertise on LMI and the faculty, they’re going to bring that nexus and the connection to instruction and academics. That’s not where I am. I am in the labor side and the economics. Also, we look forward to bringing together information to help make our pathways more robust. Sometimes think of– people think of pathways as just undergrad or just the credit side, but working with this data, we can supply and strengthen the programs and the initiatives the provost has already put in place, such as aligning our adult ed into, through, and beyond continuing ed, into the bachelor’s, into our transfer programs, what does that mean. I also look at that to the next phase all the way through into employment, what does that look like. Those are strong pathways that labor market information can support. There are three different things, specifically. Looking to develop a skills gap report. That is a difference and a divergence between what we have in curriculum and the skills and the demand in the market. So, it’s a skills-based analysis. There’s a skills shortage report that I’m working to develop. That will be in an area of study level, a department level, and a program level. That’s a skills shortage. That’s more of a traditional gap analysis. We need 1000 nurses, we’re graduating 400, we need to figure out where to get 600 from. There’s also then a skills mismatch. That’s a misalignment of programs. That’s a little bit of a curriculum redesign, talking more of an institutional program portfolio, as the labor market calls it and refers to it. That third analysis, I think, is where we can really do some benefit to the market and to the community beyond what we’re already doing. I think we might even be able to move the needle on equity and diversity because in there we can still focus our efforts on the high impact, high demand, high skill, high income occupations that will move our economy and Texas into the future, but then I think we also can look at some of those that people might say high demand, low wage, entry level skills, and are those opportunities to build pathways again from maybe adult ed, continuing ed, into that credit side so those people who are in those entry level jobs that are struggling day to day, they can come here and get something, a short based skill certificate, and move to the next level and then come back and they get something next. That’s a career progression, it’s a stackable credential, the Guided Pathways. By integrating the people and creating partnerships, I am optimistic and positive that ACC will not only be the gateway to higher education in central Texas, but we will be the pathway to prosperity and success for our students. 

[Matt Evins:] Well, that’s one heck of a way to end the Q and A, Daniel [laughter]. Going off-topic a little bit, an opportunity to let you showcase anything that you’re talking about, anything that you’re doing. Gretchen, anything giving you #RiverbatPride this week? 

[Gretchen Riehl:] Well, yes, as a matter of fact. Last week we learned that our associate degree nursing program was named the best nursing program in central Texas by the Statesman, their annual best of awards and so we won– this is the second year in a row that our ADN program has won that for the nursing programs, so we are very proud of that. 

[Matt Evins:] Congratulations to them. Daniel, how about you? 

[Daniel Chupe-Ohanlon:] Well, I am just coming back from six days of immersive training from Economic Modeling Services International and so I have a wealth of information. I have four potential offers to be prototype and beta testers for some new future things that the company is wanting us as an institution to be the first in the nation to test for some new skills matching, for some syllabi assessment and evaluation based on skills, all using it with automated technology, taking it to the next level of looking and how do we reassess skills, skills development, and that is a huge discussion. Huge discussion that I am super excited about on curriculum redesign from the course to the program to our graduates out to the workforce. 

[Matt Evins:] A lot of great implications for the college. 

[Daniel Chupe-Ohanlon:] Huge. 

[Matt Evins:] Excellent. Well, that wraps up another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. I want to thank Gretchen and Daniel for their time today. Don’t forget that you can view blog posts for each episode on the TLED website. I also encourage you to subscribe to the ACC district podcasts on any of your preferred podcast apps or listen to individual episodes on the TLED website. Thank you for tuning and we’ll chat next time on TLC at ACC.