Since its inception, the Joyce Foundation’s Shifting Gears (SG) Initiative has emphasized state-level policy change that is intended to address the postsecondary education and employment needs of low-skilled adults. Shifting Gears was launched initially to help five Midwest states (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) “re-engineer” adult education, workforce development, and postsecondary education policies and “support economic growth and expand job opportunities for low-skilled adult workers in the Midwest”.

Funded since 2006, Illinois’ Shifting Gears initiative seeks to address state policy and local program disconnects that limit low-skilled adults’ attainment of postsecondary credentials and employment in high demand occupations through the development of Bridge programs. The first phase of Illinois’ Shifting Gears initiative (SG 1.0) was tied strategically to the state’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative (CSSI), targeting three industry sectors: healthcare, manufacturing and transportation, distribution, and logistics. The Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) provided leadership for the grant, with support and matching funds from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Ten community college pilot sites received grants to implement bridge courses in these career cluster/industry sector areas, and outcomes of that effort were captured in an evaluation. Also during the course of SG 1.0, the state adopted a standard definition of bridge instruction and developed a policy agenda that continues to drive the initiative. 

The ICCB continues to lead phase two of Shifting Gears (SG 2.0) with support from DCEO. SG 2.0 goals are targeted at four strategic initiatives that support the policy agenda:

  • Engagement of state decision-makers in developing and implementing bridge-related policies.
  • Development and institutionalization of bridge program models and practices
  • Strengthening data systems and expanding performance measures and tracking.
  • Communicating practices and policies to decision-makers and the public.

Creating a Successful Bridge Program:  A “How To” Guide

Bridge Programs in Illinois: Summaries, Outcomes, and Cross-site Findings

How To Build Bridge Programs that Fit Into A Career Pathway

CTE/Developmental Education Bridges in Illinois
Pathways to Success: A Guide to Successful Bridge Programs for Incumbent Workers
Bridge to Health Sciences Curriculum Model

Issues of Promising Practice

Latest News & Trending Articles on CC Bridges

Shifting Gears 1.0 Final Report

Addressing The Skills Gap – Shifting Gears Evaluation Report

UPDATE on Research & Leadership, produced by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois, is devoted to Shifting Gears.