Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Career Pathway Development: An Analysis of Social Networks As a Strategy for Transformative Change in Community Colleges

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Raquel C. Sanchez and Nada Rayyes, IMPAQ International
This paper presents a social network analysis (SNA) approach to study regional collaboration aimed at developing and expanding industry-specific career pathways. The “ABC”[1] consortium, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) Initiative,[2] includes ten California Community Colleges, local workforce development experts, employers, universities, and other community partners.   The ABC grant brings together diverse partners to strengthen and align higher education and job training throughout the region, with a focus on three industry clusters: advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and biotechnology.

To evaluate the ABC initiative, we use a quasi-experimental research design with two major components—an outcomes study and an implementation study. To study outcomes, evaluators use a comparison cohort design (Shadish, Cook and Campbell, 2002) to measure the effects of the grant-supported training programs on participant outcomes. To describe program implementation, we use observations of ABC activities and yearly site visits, consisting of interviews and student focus groups, to collect rich qualitative data about ABC development, accomplishments, challenges, and lessons.  In addition, the implementation study includes a social network analysis (SNA). Using SNA, we examine the relationships and information sharing between key organizations partnering with each other through the TAACCCT grant funded ABC consortium (e.g., workforce, colleges, employers, community organizations).

Social networks have been identified as a necessary component of the transformative change process (Henrik, 2011) and is identified as one of the guiding principles of the Transformative Change Initiative[3] by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL).  The preliminary findings presented in this paper inform the discourse on how grant funds can be leveraged to facilitate engagement among regional actors in education, workforce and economic development to foster transformative change in career and technical education.  

The data collected for the implementation study provided the contextual information required for understanding the systems change outcomes that are central to ABC regional skills alliance approach.  We do this by adopting a social network paradigm (Daly, 2010) that allows us to conceptualize the role of the consortium as the intermediary in the change effort.   The social network paradigm includes a methodological approach that allows us to model collaboration at the level of the organization and present visual representations in the form of social network maps.  Thus, our SNA focuses on the relationships between individuals working in organizations that constitute the ABC consortium in order to describe the consortium as a collaborative network.  According to the typology of social network research domains as presented by Borgatti and Ofem (2010), we are conducting a Type 5 study, which focuses on the antecedents of network structuring (i.e., how and why different collaborative structures form).  

In this paper, we present preliminary findings from data analyzed thus far, including graphic representations (social network maps) of collaboration at the consortium level, and by industry cluster.


[1]ABC is a pseudonym.

[2]ABC is a Round 2 TAACCCT award. More information is available at