McLennan Community College Uses Data to Align CTE Programs With Opportunity

Published on Sep 9, 2020

Updated on Feb 20, 2024

Written by Remie Verougstraete

Data-driven gap analysis streamlines Perkins V application process at McLennan Community College

Summary (Download)

  • While Perkins V legislation is a major boon to CTE providers like McLennan Community College (MCC), it requires a robust Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment for schools to qualify for funding.

  • To efficiently assess program alignment with needs and opportunities in their regional economy, MCC partnered with Lightcast (formerly known as Emsi) on a Program Demand Gap Analysis and environmental scan.

  • The data-rich report has helped to streamline MCC’s Perkins application process and inform ongoing program review and community engagement work at the college.

  • MCC has also used the data to engage private donors by demonstrating how their current programs align with needs in the local economy.

Excerpt from MCC’s Economic Impact Study

As a key provider of career and technical education (CTE) in Waco, TX, McLennan Community College (MCC) has been gearing up for full implementation of Perkins V in 2020. The newly revised and expanded law is expected to provide about $1.2 billion in funding. But to qualify for these funds, institutions must complete an extensive application process, including completion of the newly mandated comprehensive local needs assessment (CLNA) to demonstrate that programs are “designed to meet local education or economic needs.” 

Heading into the first full year of the new requirements, MCC wanted to start off on a firm foundation of reliable labor market data. In particular, they needed to quickly and confidently identify the high-growth, high-wage jobs in their region, and connect that insight back to their own academic programs.

Understanding community strengths and needs

To achieve this goal, MCC worked with Lightcast's higher education consulting team to conduct a program demand gap analysis and environmental scan. These reports combined the comprehensive coverage and detailed insight MCC needed to streamline their application process and assemble a solid Perkins V application.

“It really laid the groundwork for us to do our local needs assessment and then build our grant needs out of that,” said Tom Proctor, who serves as director of program review, planning, and assessment at McLennan Community College and also as project director of MCC’s Perkins Basic Grant.

Excerpt from MCC’s Environmental Scan

For example, the environmental scan provided demographic data including educational attainment by ethnicity, poverty rate, and median household income for each county in their service area. This information gives MCC a baseline for economic prosperity in the region and can help them understand and quantify where certain special populations (a particular area of focus under Perkins V) are falling short of regional averages.

At the same time, the scan also highlights key industry subsectors and occupations in MCC’s region based on information like current number of jobs, projected job growth over the next 10 years, and location quotient (a measure of the concentration of jobs within an industry compared to the national average). These data points and many others included in the environmental scan gave MCC important context for validating their proposed use of Perkins funding.

Uncovering program opportunities

While the environmental scan provided a helpful starting place, MCC also wanted to see how the economic conditions in their region related to specific programs offered at their institution. For this, they relied on the gap analysis portion of the report. 

The gap analysis compares the total number of completions in the region for a particular program (including completions from MCC’s peer institutions) to the number of job openings for related occupations. In this analysis, Lightcast's consulting team uses a CIP-to-SOC map and conservative deduplication methodology that prevents double-counting of jobs that map to more than one program or completion level.

The results gave MCC an actionable assessment of which programs should be expanded (or created) to meet critical workforce shortages. Because the report also includes median hourly wage data for all mapped occupations, MCC can use this data to validate which of their programs prepare graduates for jobs that are both high-demand and high-wage. 


Excerpt from MCC’s Program Demand Gap Analysis

Getting to solutions faster

Combined, the high-level environmental scan and program-specific gap analysis helped MCC identify key industries and occupations that offer the best pathways to opportunity for the unemployed, economically disadvantaged, and other special populations in their region. Having all this data in one comprehensive report meant MCC could move quickly from identifying problems to designing solutions:

“It’s complicated for us to figure out every year, ‘How are we going to move the dial for these individuals?’” said Proctor. “But if we can start out having already identified those gaps so that we know where we can plug people into opportunities, that makes a huge difference.”

MCC’s Emergency Services Education Center (courtesy: MCC)

Data-backed donor engagement

While Perkins funding is key for the institution’s CTE programs, MCC’s foundation also engages private donors who support the college. In many cases, these donors look to support a specific program area that serves the needs of a particular industry or occupation. With a gap analysis report, MCC can not only confirm and quantify the labor market need, but also demonstrate to donors how their programs are aligned to meet that need.

For example, MCC was recently approached by a donor who was interested in supporting students pursuing work in the long-term care field. With the PDGA, they were able to show this potential donor that not only was that occupation projected to grow in their region, but that MCC was well-positioned to meet the need for workers in those jobs.

Capturing current impact

In conjunction with the environmental scan and gap analysis, Lightcast also conducted an economic impact study (EIS) that quantified the significant ways in which MCC is already fueling economic prosperity in Waco. While the PDGA highlights specific programs that meet the talent demand for particular occupations, the EIS complements that analysis by zooming out to measure the overall economic impact MCC has on their region.

The study captures the chain reaction of revenue-generating activities set off by MCC’s spending and investment, including day-to-day operations, new building construction, and the spending of students that the institution brings to or retains in the Waco area. It also includes an investment analysis that measures the ROI students and taxpayers receive on their tuition and tax dollars. This data has further equipped MCC’s foundation to engage private donors, policy makers, and business leaders with compelling evidence of the institution’s value to students, and the broader community.

Excerpt from MCC’s Economic Impact Study

The best data, in less time

According to the team at MCC, Lightcast's research provided a couple of key advantages that proved especially valuable in streamlining their Perkins V application process: 

1) Region-specific detail – While a number of free data sources were available to MCC to provide state-level information, Lightcast's consulting reports were region-specific. Everything from the number of completions to the number of job openings and the estimated wages for those jobs was all specific to MCC’s service region. This level of precision enabled MCC to develop relevant, customized solutions based on the unique opportunities in their economy, and the unique strengths of their institution.

2) Time-saving coverage – Because Lightcast combined a regional demographic and economic overview, program-specific labor market gap analysis, and institutional economic impact study into two, shareable, data rich reports (complete with summary infographics and executive summaries), Proctor and his team were able to spend less time chasing down spreadsheets and more time proactively developing solutions to serve the people of Waco.

“I suppose that I could ‘wing it’ by trying to pull data from different sources, but it would have been very time consuming for me to do that,” said Proctor. “So the [Lightcast] reports saved me a lot of time, and it brought a lot of specific information that the state simply did not provide.”

Courtesy: MCC

Confidence in uncertain times

On top of saving valuable time, the reports enabled confidence and clarity as MCC attempted to navigate new legislation and grant requirements in the midst of the distractions and limitations caused by COVID-19.

“The [Lightcast] data provides a level of confidence for us in working through an uncertain process, particularly when we’re in the middle of this pandemic where we’re isolated but trying to stay connected at the same time,” said Proctor. “This information can close a lot of gaps.”

Ultimately, these benefits trickle down to the students at MCC. Because Proctor and his team were freed up from having to wrangle all the data themselves, they could remain focused on MCC’s core mission — improving students’ lives and enriching their community.

“What we do has a direct impact by changing lives,” said Proctor. “And it’s not just changing an individual student’s life by giving them great opportunities for the future in terms of a solid career, but it’s oftentimes changing the trajectory of a whole family.”

Download this case study to share with a colleague. You can also learn more about the Program Demand Gap Analysis, Economic Impact Study, or Lightcast's other solutions for higher education on our website. And if you have questions, please let us know! We’d love to hear about the work you’re doing and explore how our data can help.