The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 amended the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program to establish a Community College and Career Training (CCCT) initiative. The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act signed by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2010, included $2 billion over four years to fund and expand this initiative.

As a result, the Department of Labor, in consultation with the Department of Education, announced the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative.

In September 2011, Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges were awarded a TAACCCT grant.

In November 2012, Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges officially branded the TAACCCT initiative as JobTrakPA.

From 2012-2015, the grant provided for an expansion of Pennsylvania’s community colleges’ capacity to meet the workforce skill needs of statewide and local industries while increasing attainment of college degrees and other industry-recognized credentials throughout the Commonwealth.

Through the grant, each college received a standard base amount of funding in addition to funding that was calculated based on the college’s enrollment. The grant funding was also be used to design curriculum, develop a database and recruit students to specific programs.

The colleges worked with area employers to build programs around industries such as advanced manufacturing; energy distribution, production and conservation; and healthcare information technology. The types of courses offered varied by region, based on the workforce needs in each specific college’s area.

By the end of the grant period in 2015, the results were in:

  • 3,700 students had enrolled in JobTrak programs at Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges,
  • Approximately 2,600 students had successfully completed their course of study
  • More than 1,100 students had secured employment through JobTrak’s placement program

The TAACCCT 2 project, led by Montgomery County Community College, began in October, 2012. The purpose of the project was to develop a common standard and platform for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) among the state’s community colleges, which would allow the colleges to award adult learners credit for knowledge acquired through prior training and work experience. It was the first statewide PLA project to encompass all colleges in a given sector. In February, 2015, the e-portfolio platform and website, www.ccfasttrack.org, officially launched and has been in use throughout the Commonwealth. To date, more than 1,000 petitions have been submitted, and more than 200 credits have been awarded.

A secondary goal of the project was to develop an on-line, non-credit Entrepreneurial and Business Skills training component for TAACCCT participants.

The entrepreneurial component initially launched in December, 2014, and relaunched with new branding in January 2016. www.BeTheBoss.org offers three free online, non-credit educational resources: “How to Start a Business,” “A Case Study in Energy,” and a microsite with links to supplemental information. The course capstone includes a business plan development tool that will enable students to create a viable business plan. Colleges can decide locally whether successful completion of the course and business plan could be evaluated for PLA credit towards any of their programs. Since the rebranding, more than 400 students have enrolled in the BeTheBoss online entrepreneurship course.

In September 2014, it was announced that three community colleges in Pennsylvania — Lehigh Carbon Community College, Luzerne County Community College and Northampton Community College would receive a four-year $10 million federal grant to develop new degree, certificate, and diploma programs in high priority career fields.

The program, known as Pennsylvania Advanced Training & Hiring (PATH) launched in October 2014, with the first eligible participants enrolling in the first quarter of 2015. A website, www.pathcareers.org was created to assist in recruiting students.

Under the grant led by Northampton Community College, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Luzerne County Community College and Northampton Community College received funding to work with employers to develop affordable, portable, and stackable degree, certificate and diploma programs in three industry sectors — advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics/transportation.

The training programs offered through PATH include Welding Technology, Healthcare Office Coordinator, Medical Assistant, Engineering Design & Manufacturing, Medical Billing & Coding, CNC Precision Machining, AMIST Mechatronics, Diesel Truck Technology, and Instrumentation & Process Control.

Some of the programs are offered at all three colleges while others may be specific to one of the colleges. Students who enroll will have the benefit of remediation for those who need it and technology-enhanced learning proven to be effective in occupational training. Some students may also qualify for credit for prior learning.

The programs are intended to help to prepare low-wage workers for middle-class jobs and to grow the economy.

The colleges invested $2,500,000 in upgrading their facilities and purchasing new equipment to ensure that the training offered will meet state-of-the-art industry standards. Collectively, the colleges have created 30 new career pathways, and enrolled more than 350 students. PATH administrators anticipate that the program will deliver a steady supply of qualified workers through 2018.

Employer partners include Airgas, B. Braun Medical Inc., Blue Mountain Health Systems, Fisher Clinical Services, Fresh Pet Kitchens, Just Born Inc., K-Fab Inc., Lehigh Valley Health Network, Linde Corporation, Machining Technologies, Mack Trucks, Martz Group, Medico Industries, Ocean Spray, Pocono Medical Center, St. Luke’s Hospital Miner’s Campus, St. Luke’s Physician Group, Victaulic, and Waste Management.

Public workforce system partners include PA Department of Labor & Industry and their JobGateway and PA CareerCoach programs, the Business Services Teams at the local CareerLinks, and the Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Luzerne/Schuylkill, Northern Tier, and Pocono Counties Workforce Investment Boards.