Strengthening Community College Workforce Programs │The PROMISE Center

Anywhere between 7 and 10 million students—about one-third of the undergraduate population—enroll in U.S. community colleges every year. Community colleges serve significant numbers of low-income students and students of color; for instance, more than half of those attending community colleges are Black, Latino, or from other communities of color, and most come from families with incomes lower than $50,000 a year. More than 60 percent of these students do not complete a credential in six years, indicating a need for additional support.

To address this gap, the PROMISE Center is helping community colleges consider how effective sectoral training practices can be adapted, strengthened, and scaled within postsecondary settings. The PROMISE Center is partnering with community colleges, districts, and the populations they serve to integrate and adapt evidence-based practices into their workforce training and credentialing programs by:

  • Using labor market information to inform training content and program development;
  • Effectively engaging external employers and organizations;
  • Creating systematic approaches to providing work-based learning opportunities for students; and
  • Developing more comprehensive systems to monitor program performance and students’ labor market outcomes.

PROMISE is researching the implementation of these practices and generating evidence on the effectiveness of these adaptations within postsecondary settings.

Relevant PROMISE Center Projects

Engineer showing apprentices how to work a machine

Bolstering Workforce Pathways at City Colleges of Chicago

City Colleges of Chicago and its Centers of Excellence model provide a unique and promising opportunity to blend the strategies of effective community college workforce training and best-in-class, stand-alone sectoral programs to help millions of Americans gain the skills needed to access livable wage jobs.

PROMISE Center researchers are seeking to help City Colleges of Chicago strengthen this model by adapting and testing strategies from best-in-class sectoral programs. 



College students on campus

Identifying the Best Community Colleges for Workforce Training

In partnership with Harvard University’s Project on Workforce and its initiative on Reimagining the Economy, PROMISE is examining how community colleges across the country approach and succeed with workforce training. We are seeking to identify colleges that are most effective in generating training for high-wage jobs, particularly for traditionally underserved populations.