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CAEL Research

Speed, Value, and Economic Mobility

How Community Colleges Are Developing Short-term, High-Value Credentials that Lead to Good Jobs and Careers

This report explores the experiences of ten CAEL member community colleges in their efforts to develop quality non-degree credentials that can be completed in in one year or less, lead to good-paying jobs in high-demand industries, and are stackable to a higher degree, allowing learners to unlock opportunities for even greater economic mobility. Throughout this report, we refer to these credentials as SVEs, for their Speed, Value, and pathways to Economic Mobility (SVEs). While the ten colleges in this study have vastly different local economies, student populations, and regional labor markets, our analysis found that their experiences in developing SVEs shared the following common themes: 

  • The central role of regional economic drivers in program design.
  • The importance of seamless stacking of learning and credentials to ensure options for economic mobility.
  • Equity-centered design practices
  • Data collection needs, particularly in the area of employment outcomes.

The report offers a number of recommendations for institutions considering venturing into SVEs in the following categories: 

  • Defining or refining SVE programs with labor market value in mind. 
  • Being intentional about engaging and supporting adult learners.
  • Developing robust strategies to measure the impact of SVE programs.