Emsi Case Study (See Full Archive)
Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. Certainly this been the case for Cerritos College the past few years. Poised on the edge of Los Angeles and Orange counties with a 52-square-mile service area, the college has used Emsi’s labor market data to sharpen its career and technical education (CTE) programs in order to stay both competitive in a college-saturated region and relevant in an age increasingly skeptical of CTE’s value.
“Emsi is a way for us to show the rest of the campus that what we do matters,” said Nick Real (pronounced ree-ALL), dean of Cerritos College’s technology division where he oversees programs such as automotive, design, welding, and architecture. “It also helps us in making sure that what we have is good.”
Aligning Programs, Demonstrating Real-World Outcomes
Real explained that the college uses Emsi data to provide each of the technical departments with reports demonstrating the programs’ real-world outcomes for graduates. “California’s education code says, ‘You must meet a documented labor market demand,’ ” Real said. “Each class has student learning outcomes. We make sure that those outcomes are related to what they will eventually need for employment.”
One powerful tactic has been to study the current labor market and work backwards, refining programs as needed. For example, Cerritos College has redesigned its curriculum to prepare students for certifications in skills such as welding, where certifications are required for workers who wish to labor on structures in LA county. A welding certificate also puts workers up from the $12 per hour range into the $16 per hour range minimum—a compelling lure for jobseekers. Students can then continue taking classes once they are employed and gain other certifications that lead to even higher wages.
Another example is the college’s machine tool technology program. When the college discovered that more jobs are now related to computer-assisted inspection, it adjusted its training to equip students with cutting-edge skills. “We have to train each student to be a technician, rather than just a pair of hired hands,” Real said. “That’s really what makes them successful.”
And then there are the college’s fruitful partnerships with GM, Chrysler, and Ford. Each manufacturer has its own training program that automotive students can take as part of their education, bouncing back and forth between college and the real world. “We teach students both,” Real said. “We teach them the corporate curriculum and we teach them the college curriculum.”
The setup closely resembles an apprenticeship with the result that the student is ready to go to work at the end. “Number one, if he’s done a good job and has been a good employee, they’ll want to retain him. The student himself will have achieved probably 70% of the corporate training required, so the employer will really appreciate that because he won’t have to pay for that portion of the training that he would have to pay if he got somebody off the street…. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between automotive dealers and the college.”
The payoff? Aligning CTE programs with industries thirsty for talent has given Cerritos College great success in student placement. Since not many jobseekers enter these fields, plenteous opportunities await ready graduates.
College Sharpening College, Program Sharpening Program
Emsi data also plays a role in regional program planning. Before submitting applications for any new programs, Cerritos College first uses data to study completions in order to ensure that the additions wouldn’t be duplicating programs at one of other 27 community colleges in the service region. These other colleges, in turn, frequently make Emsi data part of their own program planning process ahead of the monthly Los Angeles-Orange County Regional Consortium meeting, where each college has the chance to submit applications for new programs. In the last two years, nearly 33% of the colleges have provided Emsi data to substantiate their applications.
This leads to the question of competition. In their sprawling urban area, Real observed, regional competition has sprung organically from the pressure to offer good programs that ensure not only student success but also each college’s career and technical education’s continued existence.
“Each class has student learning outcomes. We make sure that those outcomes are related to what they will eventually need for employment.”
The colleges don’t vie for enrollment in the basic classes; the influx of freshmen is continuous for basic skills in math and English. Career and technical education programs, however, are a different story. As Real pointed out, a student who earns a degree in welding is pretty much set for a job in welding and not much else—unless the student adds training in a different field—so the welding program must be good.
Essentially, the dense college population has created an iron-sharpening-iron environment where the schools compete more with themselves than with each other. “The nature of the market naturally forces us to remain competitive,” Real said. “It’s survival of the fittest, almost, rather than people saying, oh, I want to be better then College X or College Y.”
It’s a healthy competition wherein Cerritos College’s CTE programs have thrived, thanks in part to the timely use of data as the college focuses on one of its goals: “program by program, getting those ties with the industry so that students actually have a fighting chance with everybody else going into the job market.”
About Cerritos College
Founded in 1955, Cerritos College is a public comprehensive community college serving an area of 52 square miles of southeastern Los Angeles county. The college offers degrees and certificates in 87 areas of study in nine divisions. Over 1,200 students successfully complete their course of studies each year.
Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. provides comprehensive, user-friendly labor market data that helps educational institutions, workforce planners, and regional developers (such as workforce development boards and economic development organizations) build a better workforce and improve the economic conditions in their regions.