A Study of Workforce Training Challenges Faced by a US Community College and a Comparable Chinese Institution

A Study of Workforce Training Challenges Faced by a US Community College and a Comparable Chinese Institution

Harry Hou (College of DuPage, USA) and Diane E. Oliver (California State University—Fresno, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/javet.2012010102
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This qualitative comparative case study examines the workforce training programs offered in a US community college and the vocational and technical programs offered in a comparable Chinese postsecondary institution. The study sought to identify transferable qualities and characteristics that could contribute to improving the workforce training programs in both countries. Globalization makes international collaboration between institutions and programs ever more important, particularly considering the many shared problems and potential for shared solutions. The study’s findings resulted in four primary recommendations that could be adopted by both the US and Chinese case institutions: (a) create timely new programs and courses, (b) seek new funding sources and alternatives for reducing operational costs, (c) recruit qualified full-time or part-time faculty who have industry experience, and (d) add a critical thinking component in all courses. Moreover, recommendations for each of the institutions were developed.
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This qualitative study involved two cases, a US community college and a comparable Chinese institution selected on the basis of criteria equivalences. Contrasts between the two cases were based on systemic factors including philosophical, cultural, economic, political, and functional differences. The researchers conducted fieldwork at the institutions and data were primarily gathered from interviews with administrators and faculty. Four main objectives of the research were to (a) understand the concepts behind workforce training programs in a US community college and a Chinese institution; (b) identify and explain the workforce training model employed at each institution; (c) describe and analyze the similarities and differences of the workforce training programs; and (d) explore the possibility of adopting, or adapting positive characteristics from each of the workforce training programs to benefit the postsecondary education systems in both countries.

Although the study was guided by five research questions, this article specifically focuses on the findings of the fifth culminating question: What similarities and differences exist between the workforce training programs of a US community college and comparable Chinese institution? The other four questions were used to conduct the individual case studies: how are the workforce training programs organized and operated; what administrative decision-making processes are used when establishing a new workforce training program; how does each institution plan for a workforce training program in relation to financial support, teacher preparation, and student services; and what strengths and challenges do the workforce programs exhibit?

In addition to providing insights into workforce training programs in the US and China, the research resulted in strategies and suggestions to help meet the challenges of educating a high quality workforce for a globalizing economy, which requires community colleges and other postsecondary vocational institutions to educate an increasingly skilled and globally competent workforce.

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