Converging Trends Create the Perfect Platform for an Innovative Education/Workforce Transformation

(ROCKLAND) FEBRUARY 14, 2023 — Rockland Community College (RCC) has announced it will design micro-pathways in advanced manufacturing, cannabis, health care, and more in partnership with the Education Design Lab (The Lab), a national nonprofit that designs, implements, and scales new learning models for higher education and the future of work.

RCC is part of the Lab’s third cohort in the nationally recognized Community College Growth Engine Fund (the Fund) initiative that creates micro-pathways, a new class of credentials designed to accelerate economic mobility for new majority learner-earners.

“As employers continue to call out for a more skilled workforce and as learner attitudes shift to emphasize a stronger connection to economic opportunities, higher education is experiencing a transformation we haven’t seen since the industrial revolution. Fortunately, community colleges are well-positioned to create true career pathways that lead to increased economic mobility. Working with the Education Design Lab will give us the tools and resources to co-build more responsive workforce training programs with employers, faculty, and learners that can stack into a college degree, unlock the skills learners have, and help close the skills gap in the region,” states Kevin Stump, Vice President of Economic Mobility + Workforce Innovation for RCC.

“Working alongside our community college partners from Westchester, Ulster, Orange, Dutchess, and Sullivan counties, Rockland Community College will leverage this opportunity to work with employers, faculty, and learners to co-design more responsive workforce development training opportunities that are more portable, flexible, affordable, stackable, and visible,” Stump added.

The third cohort — the largest to date — is starting with 18 colleges in February 2023 and likely to grow to over 30 institutions by late spring. The new cohort includes three state systems/districts of community colleges, which will help sustain innovations through system-level transformation.

The SUNY (State University of New York system) latest community colleges to join the Fund include:

  • Ulster
  • Westchester
  • Dutchess
  • Orange
  • Rockland
  • Sullivan

Education Design Lab will provide each college with a $50,000 grant to be used to support this initiative and drive innovation. This comes on the heels of an investment in the consortium made by SUNY to support the development of workforce pathways in advanced manufacturing and to reinforce the Hudson Valley’s workforce strategy to support the state’s emerging cannabis workforce needs.

What are micro-pathways? Co-designed with learners and employers, micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials, including a 21st century skill micro-credential, that are flexibly delivered to be achieved within less than a year and result in a job at or above the local median wage, and start (l)earners on the path to an associate degree.

As part of the Hudson Valley Education and Workforce Consortium, a partnership with six community colleges in the region, Rockland Community College is now well-positioned to take advantage of the Education Design Lab’s human-centered design process to co-build more responsive pathways that meet the needs of both learners and employers.

Kevin Stump joined RCC in his current position in early 2022. He is specifically in charge of leading the establishment of a new division to advance economic mobility and workforce innovation, redesigning institutional research functions to strengthen the organization’s data infrastructure, culture, and practice, designing and executing an institutional approach to career readiness and adopting a pathways framework to ensure every workforce development program includes stackable college credits, and developing a regional partnership and employer engagement strategy. He previously worked at the Education Design Lab and prior to that at Jobs First NYC. He received his B.A. from SUNY Plattsburgh and his MPA from Marist College.

Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine Fund, and download our January 2022 Design Insights Brief, which features learnings from our first cohort.

Bill Hughes, President + CEO of Education Design Lab: “The world of work has never before put such an onus on skills as exist today. Learners and earners need to show evidence of skills to be eligible for advancement in their career journeys. Employers need workers whose skills align with their talent requirements. The traditional degree alone does not solve for either of these, as it may be too time-intensive or expensive, and it may not align with the fast-changing needs of the labor market. The response to these challenges must be a shift to open up more affordable, accessible, job-aligned routes to employment opportunities. The work of the Community College Growth Engine Fund does that, and the Lab is excited to launch its next and largest cohort.”

About Education Design Lab: The Lab is a national nonprofit that co-designs, prototypes, and tests education-to-workforce models through a human-centered design process focused on understanding learners’ experiences, addressing equity gaps in higher education, and connecting new majority learners to economic mobility. The Community College Growth Engine Fund, led by Dr. Lisa Larson, is a design accelerator set up just before the pandemic to help community colleges lean into a future role as regional talent agents. Learn more:

About Rockland Community College, State University of New York
Rockland Community College (RCC), located in Suffern New York, provides purpose driven educational opportunities in a supportive, affordable, and accessible environment, empowering individuals to positively transform themselves and their communities. RCC welcomes students from diverse backgrounds who appreciate small class sizes and personal attention from a distinguished, award-winning faculty that includes Fulbright scholars and SUNY Distinguished Professors. Many graduates go on to top universities to further their education on their own or through RCCs institutional collaborations. RCC also provides career training and professional development to adult learners looking to change careers or upgrade their skills through a variety of programs and educational opportunities including workforce training, certifications, and microcredentials. Many of the programs are developed with employers in the community in high-demand industry areas to enable graduates to move into a new career upon graduation. More information can be found at