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  • Writer's pictureProject on Workforce Team

Research Positions | Advancing Economic Mobility at Community Colleges


The Project on Workforce is looking for four researchers to assist us with our new project: Data and Technology in Action: Advancing Economic Mobility at Community Colleges.


Applications close at 5:00pm ET on April 19.



 

CONTENTS



 

Background


In many parts of the U.S., broad-access community colleges are the primary source of talent for the region’s industries and the most promising path to economic mobility for learners and workers. Forty eight percent of Hispanic college students, 39% of Black students, and 52% of Native American students are enrolled at community colleges, and nearly 30% of community college students are the first in their families to attend college.(1) Research shows that when community colleges work with industry partners toward a shared economic strategy, they can increase wages and employment rates and boost regional productivity.(2)


Project on Workforce research on colleges and economic mobility (here, here, here, and here) and insights from the Education Design Lab’s Community College Growth Engine, show that access to–and the ability to leverage–accurate, real-time labor market information (LMI) is a crucial lever for institutions to align with employers and prepare students for in-demand career fields. Data and analytics provided by Lightcast, Chmura (through JobsEQ) and Steppingblocks are a few high-quality LMI sources for colleges. Unfortunately, many community colleges do not have access to LMI, or if they do, resource constraints hinder their ability to apply it strategically. As emerging technologies like generative AI transform the labor market, it will be more important than ever for colleges to stay attuned–and adapt–to industry shifts. Institutions also have the opportunity to leverage these technologies to improve their own processes and education offerings to enhance students’ economic prospects.


Project Overview


To address this pressing need, the Project on Workforce is launching a new research and design project with the Education Design Lab. This joint initiative will work with state systems and community colleges to improve the ways they can leverage real-time LMI and emerging technologies to advance economic mobility for their students. Four Harvard graduate researchers will be placed within community colleges and state higher education agencies to analyze their use of LMI and technology. Each researcher will be responsible for producing a case study that highlights models, challenges, and best practices. Informed by this research and supported by the Education Design Lab, the researchers will develop strategic projects for the colleges to improve their processes and pathways.

About this Position


We are seeking four full-time researchers to conduct qualitative and quantitative research that supports community colleges and states in improving their use of LMI. Graduates of any Harvard master’s or professional degree programs are eligible to apply, including international graduates. Successful applicants will be expected to spend 40 hours a week fulfilling responsibilities for this project. This role runs from approximately August to December 2024.


In this role, the researcher will be responsible for:


  • Working closely with a community college and state higher education agency to analyze their use of LMI and technology.

  • Collaborating with an education designer from the Education Design Lab to determine program design and partnerships for establishing LMI and technology systems.

  • Drafting case studies that highlight the models, outcomes, challenges, and opportunities to leverage these assets and improve economic outcomes for students.

  • Developing strategic projects and resources for institutions that improve the ways they integrate LMI and technology into their processes.


Ideal candidates


  • Have experience with quantitative data analyses 

  • Can present data in a clear and meaningful way

  • Demonstrate proficiency in conducting qualitative research, with a focus on interviewing

  • Have background experience working with education technologies or other similar and relevant technology platforms, or demonstrate a willingness to understand more about how to use education technologies

  • Possess project management experience

  • Present excellent written communication skills

  • Exhibit professional communication skills

  • Share a deep commitment to advancing equity and economic opportunity

  • Demonstrate attention-to-detail 


Additional Information


This position lasts roughly five months, with a stipend payment of between $5,000 to $6,000 a month. Benefits are not included. The position is fully virtual, with the potential for one site visit. There is the option to work in-person on Harvard’s campus for those located in the Boston-Cambridge area, but in-person is not required. 



Frequently Asked Questions


Who is eligible for this position?

Individuals who graduated from a Harvard graduate school program in 2023 or are planning to graduate in the spring/summer of 2024 are eligible to apply, including international graduates.


How many positions are available?

Four total.


Is this position part-time?

No, this role is anticipated to be the primary job for selected applicants. Successful candidates will be required to dedicate 40 hours per week to fulfill responsibilities for this project


How much does the position pay?

Selected individuals for this position will receive competitive monthly stipends, ranging between $5,000 and $6,000.


Does this position include benefits?

Unfortunately, benefits are not included. 


Where will this position be located?

Anywhere you want! This position offers flexibility in terms of location, as long as you are working from somewhere within the United States. If you choose to live and work from the Boston-Cambridge area, you are welcome to work in person at our offices at the Harvard Kennedy School.


Will travel be involved for this role?

There may be one required trip to visit the community college in person. If a trip is required, it will be fully-funded. Otherwise, no other travel is expected.


How does this position integrate with the broader team and fellow researchers?

Each researcher will be paired with a community college to build college capacity and analyze use of LMI and technology. The researcher will also be assigned an HPoW Advisor and Education Designer from EDL, both of whom will help oversee and advise the work as needed. While much of the work will involve partnering closely with the state and college system, we will also build in programming that connects the researchers to each other, allowing for knowledge-sharing and other opportunities to connect with peers.


Researchers will be considered part of the Project on Workforce staff and be invited to relevant team meetings.


What information should I include in my cover letter?

Your cover letter serves as a personal statement that speaks to your interest in the position. We invite you to articulate your motivations for why you’re interested in this role and highlight relevant experiences that demonstrate your qualifications. We recommend keeping your cover letter concise, ideally spanning 1 to 2 pages.


What experience are you hoping for me to highlight in my application?

This position offers a unique opportunity to work closely with a community college system. The role will involve identifying strategic ways in which colleges can harness the power of data and technology to identify labor market trends and engage with key stakeholders, ultimately preparing students for high-demand careers. We are seeking applicants with strong professional communication skills, proficiency with data analytics, and an ability to craft compelling written case studies. While not required, we are also looking for candidates who have experience with education technology. 


What if I don’t have a writing sample that is a written report, policy memo, or case study?

That's okay! We understand that not everyone may have a written report, policy memo, or case study as a sample. We simply request that you submit a writing sample authored by you, showcasing your ability to communicate insights, analyze data, and provide practical recommendations


When should I expect to hear if I was selected for an interview? 

Applications close at 5:00pm ET on April 19. We plan to contact individuals for interviews between the weeks of April 22 and 29. Successful applicants will be announced in May.


When will this position start?

We anticipate that all four researchers will start work the first week of August. Please note that this timeline is subject to change by a week or two.


Are there opportunities to begin working with the Project on Workforce before August 2024?

While we cannot guarantee that there will be opportunities available before August 2024, there may be the chance to join as a part-time research assistant. If this is of interest to you, please express your interest during the interview process or by reaching out to Ali Epstein (aepstein@hks.harvard.edu) after you’ve been selected for the role. The pay rate for research assistant work prior to August 2024 is $21/hour, subject to confirmation by the Malcolm Wiener Center’s Finance Team.


Who should I reach out to if I would like to learn more?

We welcome your questions! For further details about the position and the project, we recommend getting in touch with Ali Epstein at aepstein@hks.harvard.edu. Whether you prefer to connect via email or through a meeting, she is available to provide information.


Sources

(1) “Fast Facts.” American Association of Community Colleges, February 16, 2024. https://www.aacc.nche.edu/research-trends/fast-facts/.

(2) Soliz, Adela. “Preparing America’s Labor Force: Workforce Development Programs in Public Community Colleges.” Brookings, December 9, 2016. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/preparing-americas-labor-force-workforce-development-programs-in-public-community-colleges/.





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