Washington State has lifted the salaries of graduates from technical college by giving them help with English, maths and job skills. The students, who typically have graduated high school with scores too low to secure a place at college, take extra courses alongside a program of technical instruction, so they can move on to college-level study or higher paying work. Local employers collaborate with the colleges to create lessons which teach the skills they are looking for.
Results & Impact
Students who graduates from I-BEST courses earn an average of $2,310 more per year than peers who do not. I-BEST is implemented in all 34 technical schools and community colleges statewide. The students involved are typically those who have not graduated from high school with high enough scores to enter university. I-BEST was named a "Bright Idea" by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2011
Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, five technical schools and 29 community colleges in Washington State, local employers, including childcare, healthcare and the car industry
A team of academics and local employers designed a course teaching maths, science, job skills and English - including as a second language - that runs concurrently with student's main program of study. The combination provides a good grounding for college-level studies or better paid employment. It also provides local employers with a stream of qualified new hires
Washington, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Texas
Community and technical college students
Cost & Value
Running since 2004
The amount of coordination between an array of educational and financial departments meant agendas weren't always met in the early days of the project. In the end, many colleges appointed a dedicated I-BEST coordinator
At least 20 states have adopted similar programs, including Minnesota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Texas
Teenagers graduates from technical and community college in Washington State have earned an average of $2,310 more per year than their peers by enrolling in a basic skills program called I-BEST.
The course, which teaches maths, science and English as a second language alongside a technical program of study is the result of a series of public-private partnerships between the state of Washington, technical colleges and the private sector. The students involved are typically those who have not graduated from high school with high enough scores to enter university. Technical colleges help them build credits towards higher education or find higher-paying work.
Local employers have provided the colleges with guidance on lessons in job skills. They then benefit from hiring students from colleges who already have the skills they are seeking. Students who enrolled have also tripled their chances of earning college credits, compared to peers who did not receive the training.
In the early 2000s, records at community and technical colleges in Washington State began to show that students enrolled in basic skills courses were not acquiring the credentials needed to advance to college-level programs or employment. The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) formed a team comprised of experts in workforce development, basic adult education, finance and employees from community colleges. They were tasked with solving the credentials deficit.
The result was a course called I-BEST which allowed students to continue their courses at community and technical colleges while taking on an additional program incorporating basic skills in maths, science, and English as a second language, as well as job skills. I-BEST has since helped to increase the rate at which adult advance to college-level degree courses. The model has also helped thousands of graduates earn between $13-15 per hour, well above the minimum wage.
One major challenge in the start up phase of I-BEST was the need to identify which teachers from adult education and workforce development departments were available to teach the additional courses. I-BEST also required the creation of an administrative team and coordination from a number of departments, including education and financial aid. And while the program is funded by the State of Washington, some schools require additional support. The regional market for technical graduates also had to be examined to ensure there were enough jobs with an entry level pay of $13-15 per hour.
The I-BEST program, which began as a pilot project involving ten colleges, now runs 34 colleges in Washington state. It has also turned into a valued nationwide model for the dissemination of additional skills in community colleges and technical schools. As the years have passed, the program has gathered funding from Jobs for the Future and private foundations. Washington State has also helped other introduce similar programs across the country, including Minnesota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Texas.
(Picture: Flickr/Aaron Hawkins)