Noncredit Research Collaborative

Preparing the Workforce in Today’s Community Colleges: Issues and Implications for Higher Education Leaders.


Serving more than 12 million students each year (AACC 2019), community colleges have an undeniable impact on American higher education, state workforces, local communities, and the individuals they serve. This issue brief offers higher education leaders research-based perspectives on the workforce education role of community colleges. For community college leaders, this report documents and contextualizes important pieces of the comprehensive community college mission related to workforce development and connects them with current movements in the field. Additionally, this issue brief offers an overview to leaders not presently working in the community college setting who may be less familiar with community college functions other than college transfer.

The brief is organized into four primary sections: First, it describes the workforce skills gap and the relevance to community college education. Second, it offers a description of the two primary delivery mechanisms for workforce education in the community college: credit-based career and technical education and noncredit occupational training. Third, it contextualizes the two primary functions through a discussion of three important movements associated with community colleges: registered apprenticeships, associate of applied science articulation to the university sector, and credit for prior learning.