Mission and History

The mission of the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions (CCWT) is to conduct and support research, critical policy analysis, and public dialogue on student experiences with the transition from college to the workforce in order to inform policies, programs, and practices that promote academic and career success for all learners.

The Center is being launched at a time when student employability, skills gaps, changes in the labor market, the future of higher education, and lifelong learning are being discussed and debated around the world. Underlying these debates is a growing consensus that the postsecondary system needs to pay closer attention to ensuring students are provided with 21st century competencies as well as career guidance so that they can thrive in the workplace. While the increasing focus on the role of higher education in vocational preparation should not supersede the traditional functions of education to cultivate student’s intellects or sense of civic engagement, employability is an essential issue for many students, parents, and policymakers. Thus, a key issue facing colleges, universities, and other providers of postsecondary education is how to best design the educational experience to prepare learners for long term success in their careers.

Yet absent from many of these debates are the voices and experiences of those most implicated in the future direction of higher education-workforce dynamics: those of the learners themselves. Documenting students’ experiences with teaching and training, career advising, and the hiring process are essential in order to inform the design and improvement of postsecondary programs aimed at helping them make the transition from college to the workforce. In fact, ensuring that new programs, policies, and practices are grounded in the experiences of “users,” and the organizational, socio-cultural, and political factors influencing them, is a core concept of software and industrial design, public health, and other fields aimed at creating product and services that best meet the needs of potential users.

The Center is a response to these gaps in the public, policy, and scholarly discussions about the career readiness of college graduates. The Center’s initial foci will be on the following four program strands that will inform research, policy analysis, and community-building activities:

classroom teaching
Students’ experiences with skills acquisition via classroom teaching and work-based learning
college career advising
Students’ experiences with college career advising services
hiring process
Students’ experiences with the job search and hiring processes
community relationships
Students’ and other community member’s views on the relationships among higher education, vocational preparation, and civic engagement

Besides documenting the experiences of students making the college-to-workforce transition, research and policy analysis conducted under the auspices of CCWT will also focus on identifying effective strategies and policies for teaching, work-based learning, advising, hiring, and training that facilitate student and employee acquisition of 21st century competencies and favorable employment outcomes. In addition, research will also encompass comparative analyses of student experiences with college-workforce pathways across municipal, regional and national borders—particularly in East Asian countries like China and Japan—in order to shed light on promising practices and important differences across institutional and socio-cultural contexts. Center Flyer (PDF)