Ivy Tech Community College’s (ITCC) vision of one-learner ecosystem is starting to crystallize and become reality through the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund—CCGEF or the Fund, for short. To the Indiana statewide community college system, one ecosystem means a system where all students, particularly adult learners, are honored for their life and work experiences and can receive credentials at a faster pace to help them achieve their goals in finding a better job or career. One system where noncredit and credit merge together and learners can move from one to the other seamlessly.
“Being part of the CCGEF design accelerator has helped Ivy Tech push forward with changes we had started to make. The Fund has enabled us to think even more broadly and creatively about innovation,” states Stacy Townsley, vice president of Adult Strategy and Statewide Partnerships.
Take Ivy Tech’s CDL Plus Certificate micro-pathway designed as part of the Fund, which qualifies learners to be heavy truck and tractor trailer drivers. At the Lab, we define a micro-pathway as two or more stackable credentials (21st century skills included) that are employer validated, lead to a median wage occupation, and start learners on the path to a degree. The CDL Plus Certificate micro-pathway mixes noncredit and credit programming, offering tremendous advantages to learners.
So, how does Ivy Tech’s CDL Plus Certificate micro-pathway work?
During the first four weeks, learners participate in a hands-on noncredit program where they earn their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which can be crosswalked for eight credit hours of the 18 credit hours in the CDL Plus Certificate micro-pathway. They then seamlessly move into the credit portion of the micro-pathway to finish out the other 10 credit hours, where they participate in a paid internship or complete coursework to earn three industry-recognized logistics certifications. These two options can accommodate both learners who are currently unemployed or otherwise have the capacity to take part in an internship and learners who are currently working and can complete the logistics certifications online with a flexible schedule. As part of this micro-pathway, learners also earn a WIN Essential Soft Skills Credential.
What are the advantages of this micro-pathway to learners?
- Learners are hired upon completion. There is tremendous demand and many unfilled jobs for heavy truck and tractor trailer drivers in the state of Indiana. These jobs pay annually on average $22.63 per hour in the region, a salary above regional median wage.
- Learners receive their CDL license and 18 academic credits in approximately four months. The 18 credit hours—discussed more in-depth under “how does it work?” and visible in the above graphic—is a combination of the eight credits that crosswalked over from the noncredit training, then 10 additional credit hours for completing the remainder of the CDL Plus Certificate micro-pathway. This stacks into Ivy Tech’s Supply Chain Management Technical Certificate which can also be stacked towards an A.A.S. degree in Supply Chain Management. Learners have the option to earn the higher level credentials upon completion of the micro-pathway or at a later time.
- Once learners complete the noncredit CDL training and transition to coursework or an internship on the credit side, learners receive ongoing advising and support from campus program staff. Program staff help learners navigate completion of the micro-pathway and either secure employment or continue on to the Supply Chain Management Technical Certificate.
- Ivy Tech’s CDL Plus Certificate micro-pathway is eligible for federal student loans, as well as the state of Indiana’s Workforce Ready Grants, easing some financial barriers for learners who want to participate, but aren’t able to pay for it.
- This noncredit and credit mixed pathway can help learners build self-esteem as they transition into a college setting. Ivy Tech’s programming seeks to understand every learner’s career goals and what brings them to the micro-pathway, focusing deeply on nurturing learners’ growth, agency, and belonging. We walk through the relationship between investing in and understanding these drivers of engagement in our recent Learner Engagement Framework publication.
Ivy Tech is continuing to shape its “One-Learner Ecosystem” through the Community College Growth Engine Fund. In doing so, they are continuing to take a deeper look at how their processes affect the experience of each of their learners, moving from interest all the way through employment or a continuing academic path. Ivy Tech has several workshops planned this fall for campuses that are launching their new micro-pathways with cross-department representation.
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.