The mission of the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions (CCWT) is to conduct and support research, critical policy analysis, and public dialogue on student experiences with the transition from college to the workforce in order to inform policies, programs, and practices that promote academic and career success for all learners.
CCWT is committed to cultivating a community of scholars, practitioners and students through public seminars and symposia, applied research, and customized technical assistance to postsecondary institutions around the world. In conducting these activities, the Center’s guiding principle is to re-position research, practice, and policymaking on college-workforce issues from an exclusive focus on workforce and employers’ needs to instead prioritize the interests, perspectives, and well-being of all college and university students. Specifically, the Center aims to provide an outlet for the voices, interests, and experiences of students who have traditionally lacked representation in these debates, including but not limited to: students of color, low-income students, LGBTQ students, first-generation students, and adult students.
CCWT is currently engaged in three distinct yet inter-related areas of inquiry in service of our mission and principles: (1) students’ experiences with college internships and the impact of these programs on their economic, vocational, and psychosocial outcomes; (2) students’ experiences with institutional, cultural, and structural forces that influence their transitions to the workforce; and, (3) the experiences of refugee communities with transitions to higher education and the workforce. CCWT also views college-workforce issues as inextricably linked to three of the defining issues of our time: racial injustice, income inequality, and climate change.
The Center is a response to these gaps in the public, policy, and scholarly discussions about the career readiness of college graduates. The Center’s initial foci will be on the following four program strands that will inform research, policy analysis, and community-building activities:
Students’ experiences with skills acquisition via classroom teaching and work-based learning
Students’ experiences with college career advising services
Students’ experiences with the job search and hiring processes
Students’ and the community’s views on higher education, vocational preparation, and civic engagement relationships
Besides documenting the experiences of students making the college-to-workforce transition, research and policy analysis conducted under the auspices of CCWT will also focus on identifying effective strategies and policies for teaching, work-based learning, advising, hiring, and training that facilitate student and employee acquisition of 21st century competencies and favorable employment outcomes. In addition, research will also encompass comparative analyses of student experiences with college-workforce pathways across municipal, regional and national borders—“particularly in Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and in East Asia”—in order to shed light on promising practices and important differences across institutional and socio-cultural contexts.
History of CCWT
The Center was launched in early 2017 at a time when student employability, skills gaps, changes in the labor market, the future of higher education, and lifelong learning were being discussed and debated around the world. Underlying these debates, which continue to this day, is a growing consensus that the postsecondary system needs to pay closer attention to ensuring students are provided with 21st century competencies as well as career guidance so that they can thrive in the workplace. While the committee that helped to design CCWT felt that the increasing focus on the role of higher education in vocational preparation should not supersede the traditional functions of education to cultivate student’s intellects or sense of civic engagement, there was agreement that employability was an essential issue for many students, parents, and policymakers. Thus, a key issue facing colleges, universities, and other providers of postsecondary education in the early 21st century is how to best design the educational experience to prepare learners for long term success in their careers.
Yet absent from many of these debates were the voices and experiences of those most implicated in the future direction of higher education-workforce dynamics: those of the students themselves. Documenting students’ experiences with teaching and training, career advising, and the hiring process are essential in order to inform the design and improvement of postsecondary programs aimed at helping them make the transition from college to the workforce. In fact, ensuring that new programs, policies, and practices are grounded in the experiences of “users” and feature student (and not only employer or policymaker) voices and interests, was one of the central motivations for creating the Center. As the Center’s portfolio of activities continues to grow and evolve, this dedication to students’ voices and perspectives will remain a cornerstone of our programs and activities.