July 2, 2018 by Remie Verougstraete
Founded in 1958 as the first racially integrated school in Prince George’s County, just outside the nation’s capital, Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) has a proud history of providing accessible education for all members of the community. Today, they continue that legacy by offering more than 200 academic, workforce development, and continuing education programs to a diverse group of over 30,000 credit and non-credit students.
Of course, effective higher education is not only about the number of programs offered—it’s also about the quality and relevance of those programs. That’s why, as a Pathways school, PGCC works hard to ensure that students’ academic experience in the classroom translates into professional success in the workforce. To achieve this, they are using Emsi’s Program Demand Gap Analysis to align their programs with good, high-demand jobs in the regional economy.
“I basically look at it every day as we’re coming up on the end of our strategic planning cycle,” said Dr. Nassim Ebrahimi, associate vice president for strategy, planning, and effectiveness at Prince George’s Community College. “We want to make sure we’re focusing on the right programs at the right time.”
The PDGA breaks down regional skill gaps by required education, providing the administration at Prince George’s Community College with a comprehensive snapshot of the growth opportunities that exist at all program levels. And because PGCC commissioned this analysis for their county and their service area, they were able to further validate which of these gaps existed both locally, in Prince George’s County, and in their broader region, which extends to D.C. and Fairfax County in northern Virginia.
For example, the business and accounting program cluster emerged as a top candidate for expansion based on evidence from both the county and regional analyses. “The consistency of the gap across associate and certificate levels for both the region and county showed us that we have a strong niche that we could fill in those areas,” said Ebrahimi. “That’s something that our Teaching, Learning, and Student Success division is looking at as they identify our next set of priorities moving forward.”
Prince George’s Community College is also using the PDGA to confirm and demonstrate the value of recent investments in their thriving wellness, culinary arts, and hospitality program. In the regional gap analysis, culinary arts was identified as a top-five area for growth at both the associate and certificate degree levels. This was complemented by the appearance of hospitality as a top-five skills gap at both education levels for the county. Additionally, two of the top non-credit program gaps in both the county and the region were related to food service.
These findings reinforced the timeliness of PGCC’s new, state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Center, which just opened in April 2018. As Ebrahimi told Emsi, “It really underscored the need for programs, both credit and non-credit, to fill that gap.”
As a result, they’ve been able to promote these programs confidently and effectively, backed by data which demonstrates that these programs can lead to good jobs that meet real needs in their county.
The report’s usefulness has also stretched beyond the main campus to the college’s five extension centers, spread throughout Prince George’s County. These centers are especially designed to ensure that relevant educational and workforce training opportunities are accessible to all residents in the college’s service area, not just those within easy commuting distance of Largo.
Most recently, the PDGA was used to support the planning process and visioning event for the Laurel College Center, as administrators determine how that campus can best address employment gaps in the northernmost part of Prince George’s County.
The PDGA has also been shared with a variety of other teams and committees at PGCC to provide leaders with a concise, quantitative picture of how the college’s programs relate to labor market needs. This includes the college’s foundation, which has utilized the PDGA as part of the onboarding process for their new board of directors, as well as to update the current board. The college’s board of trustees also received a copy as part of their most recent leadership retreat.
Dr. Ebrahimi herself has incorporated the report into presentations about the college and Prince George’s County environmental scan. She’s even used it in conversation with the college’s senior director of communications and marketing to help prioritize ad buys and messaging as they work to highlight and promote the greatest areas of opportunity at PGCC for community members and students.
As they look to the future, PGCC has considered using the gap analysis report as a benchmark to better understand the impact of the programming decisions they are making now. The report’s quantitative analysis of labor market gaps could allow them to better measure and document their effectiveness in closing those gaps, as well as detect new opportunities for growth as the needs of their local economy shift.
It’s this potential for growth and making a positive, lasting change that energizes Dr. Ebrahimi and the rest of the leadership at Prince George’s Community College. “My role here specifically is to facilitate the thought leaders and help them prioritize, measure, and ensure that we are really making a difference for students,” said Dr. Ebrahimi. “It’s an exciting place to be.”