Gateway to Innovation: Transforming the Workforce Ecosystem

Hudson County Community College (HCCC) aspires to reach new levels of excellence to provide its diverse communities with inclusive, high-quality educational programs and wraparound supports that promote student success, equitable workforce solutions, and the business community most effectively. HCCC’s Gateway to Innovation is a comprehensive workforce initiative developed to address the systemic challenges of the workforce ecosystem in Hudson County, New Jersey.

Located across the river from Manhattan, HCCC is a comprehensive, award-winning, student- and community-centered urban institution serving one of the most densely populated and ethnically diverse areas of the U.S. The college’s two overarching strategic priorities are student success and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Denisse Carrasco, Coordinator, and Afrodita Hernandez, Student Success Coach, at HCCC open house promoting Gateway to Innovation

Program Goals

Gateway to Innovation is “focused on students and alumni, employers, and community members with the goal of providing basic support, skills training, experiential learning, and connection to employment.”1 This effort was launched in early 2021 and incorporated nationally recognized best practices. The program has four goals:

Goal 1. Stabilize student basic supports by enhancing financial health and access to benefits.

  • Single-stop access to vital benefits and community resources, such as food stamps, day care, local food pantries, and housing programs, for students and alumni
  • One-to-one financial counseling for students to establish goals, such as saving or increasing credit scores through the Financial Counseling Passport

Goal 2. Support HCCC alumni by connecting them to recession-resistant work.

  • Job placement, career coaching, resume design, mock interviews, career workshops, and job placement services
  • Alumni networking to make meaningful connections, obtain information about resources, and access job opportunities

Goal 3. Recover by offering short-term no-cost workforce training programs focused on underemployed and unemployed residents who are underserved and in communities of color, resulting in industry-recognized stackable credentials and employment.

  • Student Success Coach (SSC) assigned to support each student from enrollment through program completion with proactive guidance; advises students on advocacy skills, navigating resources, time management, and other essential functions required for success
  • Student wraparound supports, including soft skills workshops on topics such as time management, networking, and public speaking as well as career and academic advising
  • Enhanced Certified Nurse Aide and Fast Track Patient Care Technician training
  • Certified Pharmacy Technician training
  • Financial services and technology instruction and certification through Coursera, including Google IT Support, Google Data Analysis, Intuit Bookkeeping, Salesforce Sales Representative, and Meta Social Media Marketing Professional Certification

Goal 4. Prosper by deepening employer engagement in the healthcare, IT, and financial services sectors to prepare students for high-growth careers.

  • Transformative opportunities for students through active Employer Advisory Board (EAB) members representing employers in the financial services, healthcare, insurance, and technology sectors, with the goal of creating a robust and diverse talent pipeline in these areas by identifying in-demand skills, collaborating with HCCC to design leading-edge curricula, creating internships and other experiential learning opportunities, developing mentoring relationships, hiring students, and offering student scholarships


Gateway to Innovation has had a significant impact on students, employers, and the Hudson County community. Program outcomes include:

  • 2,335 students screened for and provided benefits and resources
  • 347 students enrolled in workforce training, with an 82 percent completion rate
  • 86 percent of completers earned a credential
  • 86 percent obtained employment, with an average hourly salary of $28.15 and a job retention rate of 95 percent after 90 days

The EAB is a vibrant and engaged group of business leaders who meet every quarter and contribute their time on behalf of students. They have initiated workshops, mentoring relationships, and internships; contributed to scholarships; and hired graduates. Additionally, HCCC has continued to build on the successful foundation of Gateway to Innovation with the guidance of its stakeholders. Planning for scaling and sustaining the program is critical to accelerating the momentum of change. JPMorgan Chase invested over $1 million to launch the initiative, and a braided funding strategy has been successfully used to maintain revenue sustainability and subsequent program growth.


1 Hudson County Community College. (n.d.). About the Gateway to Innovation Program.

Lori Margolin, M.S.W.

Associate Vice President
Continuing Education and Workforce Development
Hudson County Community College

Anita Belle

Director, Workforce Pathways
Continuing Education and Workforce Development
Hudson County Community College

Lead image: Students participate in hands-on phlebotomy training in class


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