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Ivy Tech Designs 4 Micro-Pathways Leading to High-Paying Jobs

Ivy Tech Community College (ITCC) is using the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund— CCGEF or the Fund, for short —as a springboard to rethink and redesign what credential attainment and skill development can look like for learners  across their system. We have featured their approach to a “one-learner ecosystem”, a system where all students, particularly adult learners, are honored for their life and work experiences and learners can move seamlessly between noncredit and credit offerings. To get to their vision for a one-learner ecosystem, Ivy Tech is launching new, leading-edge credentials for emerging occupations through four micro-pathways. Micro-pathways are two or more stackable credentials (21st century skills included) validated by employers that lead unemployed, displaced, and underpaid low-wage workers to median-wage occupations and on a path to a degree. 


Indiana’s Next Level Jobs initiative, led by Gov. Eric Holcomb, is seeking to drive Indiana’s workforce and economy forward by paying tuition and fees for learners and workers to secure work in high-priority industries and in-demand, high-paying jobs. As part of this effort, Ivy Tech has selected emerging occupations to be the focus of their micro-pathways: IT and business services, advanced manufacturing, and jobs in transportation and logistics industries. Ivy Tech’s micro-pathways have all been designed in partnership with national and regional industry associations and employers, from identifying technical and 21st century skills, selecting the industry certifications, creating labs for hands-on learning, and providing paid work-and-learn experiences to learners.



CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) Plus


You might remember the learner-centric approach of Ivy Tech’s merging of credit and noncredit in their CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) Plus Certificate micro-pathway we shared in-depth in a previous Innovation Snapshot: Ideas in Action blog post. This is the nation’s first training program of its kind that elevates the quality of training of commercial truck drivers and embeds additional skill learning and credentials to  give learners who complete the micro-pathway broader job responsibilities. While many community colleges offer Commercial Driver’s License programs, Ivy Tech’s “Plus” version adds a new set of enhancements for learners, including the opportunity to earn employer-recognized logistics certifications to gain a broader skill set beyond driving in the booming transportation and logistics industry. Learners also develop 21st century skills through hands-on learning and can participate in paid internships with regional employers. This micro-pathway was created in partnership with the Indiana Motor Truck Association, Venture Logistics, and Conexus Indiana, with employers across the state hiring learners immediately after completion of the micro-pathway.



Cloud Administrator Certificate 


One of Ivy Tech’s two new information technology micro-pathways, the Cloud Administrator Certificate micro-pathway focuses on training for IT work with the Cloud. This micro-pathway is for the “Cloud Upskiller” or someone currently serving in an IT support role, working in IT infrastructure, or an IT professional who is charged with leading a digital transformation initiative. It includes all-new, cutting-edge IT credentials — the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Practitioner and Solutions Architect certifications — as well as the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) NET+ certification. Ivy Tech’s employer partners include AWS, Accenture, Bell TechLogix, and Trek 10, who partnered in the development of the curriculum, will serve as guest speakers, and are expected to hire graduates for their Cloud demand, which continues to grow.



Routing + Switching Certificate 


The second of Ivy Tech’s information technology pathway, their Routing and Switching Certificate micro-pathway, prepares learners to become Broadband Technicians, which are needed for the significant broadband infrastructure expansion underway in the state of Indiana. The Indiana Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship (OWBLA) formally recognized this Ivy Tech micro-pathway as a certified State Earn and Learn (SEAL). Besides work-based learning opportunities, learners earn the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification and CISCO’s CCNA technical certifications. As with the other micro-pathways, employer partnerships are strong and include AT&T, D&S Communications, and Berry Comm. AT&T has provided equipment grants for two of Ivy Tech’s campuses and all will be offering work-based learning and apprenticeships to enable learners develop the high-tech skills to thrive as Broadband Technicians.



Smart Manufacturing Digital Integration Micro-pathway


The manufacturing industry is undergoing significant transformation, and Ivy Tech is at the forefront with their new Smart Manufacturing Digital Integration micro-pathway. This micro-pathway trains individuals for entry-level and/or upskilling opportunities at facilities using smart manufacturing technology. For those unfamiliar with manufacturing, learners can earn the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-10 certificate and the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) Basic Operations certificate. Learners then have the option to secure employment with a partnering employer or continue on the micro-pathway to earn more advanced  SACA certifications,  participate in a work-and-learn experience, and complete a certificate, technical certificate, or associate degree  in Smart Manufacturing Digital Integration , giving learners more agency in finding what works for them. For this micro-pathway, Ivy Tech’s partners include Norco Industries, ITAMCO, and Lippert Components, who not only need entry-level talent but will be sending existing employees to this micro-pathway to upskill and become proficient in smart manufacturing. 


What’s next


Ivy Tech launched their CDL Plus Certificate micro-pathway this fall and is gearing up to launch the other three in January 2022. So far, Ivy Tech has received approval for state workforce grants to cover tuition and fees for learners on two of the four programs; they hope all of the micro-pathways will be covered soon.



This article is written by Valerie Taylor as part of a new mini publication series, Innovation Snapshots: Ideas in Action. This series dives into the many innovative ideas and models that we have co-designed with 135+ colleges and learning institutions to better center and support new majority learners in reaching their goals. Spotlighting our partners across different Lab-driven initiatives, each part of this series focuses on a process or framework and the resulting work of a different partner. Find the rest of the series here.


Learn more about the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund here, and follow the work on Twitter: #CCGEF.


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