Mapping the Disconnect, Preparing for Success: Integrating Changing Employer Needs and Emerging Employability Skills to Improve Technician Education

In this proposal, NWCET, CCRC and CIS will work together to conduct research and bring about program improvement and faculty development.
Goal 1: Analyze shifting employer needs and requirements for jobs in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) fields Objective: To determine future trends in the roles of technicians and how they can stay competitive in the job market and in a global setting. Understanding and responding to labor market needs is one of the key roles of community colleges (Harmon, 2004).

Especially in rapidly changing fields, such information technology (IT), understanding specific labor markets trends and the underlying sources driving these trends is essential. Given the heightened uncertainty associated with the current economic crisis, the need for this information is even more acute as colleges seek to plan for skills and qualifications needed in the future.
As part of the current STEM-to-Stern project, CCRC staff developed a system analyze on-line job postings in IT with great potential for further use. This system downloads on-line job postings, indexes them, and conducts a basic coding of whether educational credentials, industry certifications, and specific IT skills are listed in the job postings. Basic tabulations on these items have been done only for Seattle and Detroit to inform that project; however, postings have been downloaded for 18 of the largest metro areas in the US and offer great potential for further analysis beyond the scope of STEM-to-Stern. With the basic system developed, we propose to extend the analysis to examine specific skills in terms of how they appear together, their association with education and industry certification, and their variation across labor markets. We will examine changes over time in demand for different skill combinations, and identify those skills that remain constantly in demand, those that are emerging, and those that are in decline. We will also develop methods to code the postings on the basis of their industry sector and will integrate these codes into the analysis. We will provide on-going reports of the findings throughout the project.
In addition to this analysis, we will build a free tool to provide ATE programs and community colleges with access to reports that examine trends in job postings in a user-friendly format. This tool will provide regular and real-time reports for ATE IT programs to view trends in IT postings in their local area. It will also provide faculty, program chairs, administrators, and other relevant college staff, such as placement office staff, with a tool to allow them to search for particular skills. We will design this system based on feedback from faculty/administrators across the country through brief telephone interviews and from members of the ATE community through a meeting at the ATE PI conference. This tool will provide an ongoing service to ATE programs and community college IT programs nationwide—these services can be often be costly for colleges to purchase and this system can provide this data specific on IT at no cost.
Goal 2: Assess the employability skills of community college Information Technology graduates with an emphasis on identifying skills needs and training gaps.
Objective: To build a sustainable and replicable model for teaching and curriculum development that integrates this research.
The severity of the financial crisis renders imperative the investment in human capital to ensure a better match between the supply of skills, both basic and employability skills, and the demands of the U.S. labor market (Cedefop, 2008). The Center for Information & Society (CIS) at the University of Washington will assess the extent to which community colleges are providing two-year IT graduates with the employability skills needed to succeed in today’s labor market. Broadly speaking, the research proposal will help us to determine if in fact the development and improvement of employability skills for two-year IT graduates improves their competitive stand in the labor market.

Grant Info


Christopher Coward

Grant Dates

Sep 1, 2009 – Sep 1, 2010