New Workforce Education Pathways at Bellevue College

Students think they know what they need to excel in their careers after college. But do employers have a better understanding? And if so, how can colleges create the bridge from student to career professional?

Jennifer Sohonie, Executive Director of Continuing Education at Bellevue College, joined the Enrollment Growth University podcast to talk about Unmudl and the potential in collaborative workforce education pathways.

Why Create a Workforce Development Partnership?

In a word: Agility. 

For example, Bellevue College has focused on IT and healthcare, developing strong programming there. That said, the school doesn’t have very strong programming in areas such as manufacturing and early childhood development. These are areas where the college just doesn’t have the materials or the content, and developing those materials and that content requires investment that may not align with the school’s strategic vision. 

“To work with other colleges really expands our ability to offer different types of education to our communities and serve that mission,” Jennifer said. “But also, it allows us to distribute what we have and create more equity and more access to students, providing them more opportunity and furthering their abilities to gain the sets of competencies that they need.” 

The other reason to create a workforce development partnership is relevancy. Consider IT, for example. It’s difficult to continuously update that material, so you might have content developed six months ago that now needs to be refreshed. 

Working together with other colleges can allow each member to take advantage of the areas in which another member is already doing well. It creates a stronger market for the working learner and for the employers.

Unmudl: A New Consortium

Unmudl is working to create a marketplace focused on the working learner, and it uses community colleges as the intermediary between the working learner and employers. So it’s a marketplace platform where the participating colleges can present and offer courses that a working learner can select from.

But it’s not just the courses. Unmudl has also got a hint of career coaching and skills assessment to it. Plus, it connects a working learner with jobs currently available to them in the area along with jobs that they might want to have in the future and provides information on how to gain the needed competencies for those career pathways.

“We are a coalition of five colleges, community colleges, right now that are working with this platform,” Jennifer said. “And we intend for that to grow.”

Next Steps for Partnering with Employers on Workforce Development

Look at your local landscape. Ask yourself:

  • What are the employers asking for? What are the skills they believe they’ll need in the near term, mid term, and long term? 
  • What are Burning Glass or the Bureau of Labor Statistics telling you about what the marketplace looks like and what those needs are? 
  • What does the Chamber of Commerce say about the economic forecast? 

There’s always some type of breakfast, dinner, or something like that that you can go to. It’s not just a networking opportunity, it’s also a learning opportunity. Listen to what industry is looking for.

“With our approach with Tombolo Institute, for example,” Jennifer told us, “we’ve gone from trying to listen to what the students are saying they need to really focusing on to what the employers are saying they need because ultimately, our job is to create a bridge from the student into a career.”

The student may think they know what they need, but the employer is the one who’s hiring them. And that’s the bridge you need to build.


This post is based on a podcast interview with Jennifer Sohonie from Bellevue College. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.