How Knack helped El Camino College manage a complex training program
and increase state funding.
El Camino College is a public community college in Los Angeles County, California. Working together with the California Employment Training Panel (ETP), the school provides businesses across the state with no-cost training that is designed to increase efficiencies, enhance productivity, and reduce costs.
El Camino’s Center for Customized Training works with ETP to deliver a wide variety of employee training. Employees are trained in continuous improvement, advanced manufacturing, computer skills, management skills, and many other disciplines. This specialized training is helping to expand skill sets and retain good-paying, long-term jobs.
When Microsoft Access closed up shop on their web apps, El Camino was left scrambling for a new solution to migrate their data. They needed something cloud-based and simple to build, while avoiding hiccups in the transition and extensive training for their users.
Knack proved to be just what they needed. Their Knack app replaced a customized desktop database and provided them with a centralized source for all data. It also enabled anytime, anywhere access - and further streamlined processes leading to greater efficiencies.
TrackPoint - ETP Data Collection, Management, and Tracking solution
Save time entering data per employee
Avoids costly duplication for data entry
Data isn’t lost in sharing because there’s a central source of truth
Able to leverage the data to demonstrate how effective their program is, and thereby receive more funding
“The speed of development with Knack was really critical for what we needed.”
Eldon Davidson is the Director for the Center for Customized Training at El Camino College. The goal of the center is to work with industries and groups all across California to try to keep manufacturing jobs in state instead of going overseas, and to enable companies to remain competitive and healthy.
Eldon and Knack developer John Fletcher started working together to manage data for the center back in 2010. They had data in spreadsheets, but found they were too prone to error. There was no single universal format, and data was being entered multiple times from workers scattered across offices.
If the Dean needed to know how many participants were trained in the previous quarter, it would take Eldon’s team hours to dig through files, printed spreadsheets, and computer data -- and that data rarely even matched up.
When Microsoft ended support for their existing TrackPoint solution, Eldon and John chose to take it as an opportunity to dramatically simplify and improve their processes. The solution had to be web-based, and it had to be easy for the user. After researching over 20 different solutions, Knack was the most intuitive system they came across.
“The speed of development with Knack was really critical for what we needed,” John explained. The options to embed apps and extend functionality with API calls were other features that stuck out to him immediately.
“With other programs, even if the features were there, it took more work,” he explained. “In Knack, you could accomplish the same thing with fewer clicks.”
Part of El Camino's Knack solution manages class lists.
Moving on from Microsoft was a big change, but thanks to Knack, El Camino didn’t miss a beat. “There wasn’t a lot of end user training necessary,” John explained. “Everything just seemed to work for what we were trying to do.”
Knack also allowed them to clean up their outdated data collection. “It fell within our philosophy,” Eldon said: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
With Knack as the central source of data, the team can now all work off of the same app, and aren’t juggling spreadsheets that hold different versions of their data. “We all see the same thing. We can work from anywhere in a friendlier user interface.”
Handling hundreds of courses, employers, and participants around Southern California means each one is a piece of paper that has to be managed. Since El Camino is one of the largest providers of these programs in California, they were eager to enhance the workflow automation of that extensive data collection.
The biggest challenge is to collect the company information for the state. For example, a company may need to put 60 engineers through a training course. That means three classes of 20 participants each, and personal data and demographics on each of them. Plus, any given class could have participants from several different companies resulting in additional paperwork.
ETP is a performance-driven program, not a grant. The college receives reimbursed if they meet 100% of the panel’s requirements. El Camino College tracks that data in Knack to ensure the employers are meeting a wage requirement, getting 100% attendance, and ensuring trainees are still employed 90 days after the course ends.
“Multiply that by 50 companies, and something so simple can get mind-boggling pretty quick,” Eldon said.
With Knack, El Camino College was able to build a robust tracking app. Centralizing the collection and organization of all their data has given them a massive boost, because they can now manage higher numbers of companies with even more participants.
"Knack gives us a competitive edge because we can administer this program so easily — probably ten times faster than our competitors."
The TrackPoint application utilizing the Knack platform has reduced the time it takes per employee to upload and maintain data, while also helping ensure that data is valid since it’s not being re-entered elsewhere. They can also import and export data from the state’s database and bring that into their own system, so everything is dynamic and current.
“Knack gives us a competitive edge because we can administer this program so easily — probably ten times faster than our competitors, and we have data tracking so we can do a lot of forecasting and data analytics,” Eldon explained.
ECC's TrackPoint solution utilizing the Knack platform helps manage contracts.
The business intelligence that Knack reporting allows also gives El Camino College a better scope of program participants: their level of education, age, salary. And having that data can serve as a basis to get them more funding and other grants.
What’s more, it’s proven easy to expand. With Knack, John says, “We’ll be in meeting and someone will ask if we could maybe do this? I’ll open the Builder, make the change, have them refresh their browser and it’s dynamically updated.”
El Camino is now the top college across the state for having the technology to administer this program. Their system is being shared at multiple colleges, because it’s proven that process automation can lead to measurable growth. Last year, El Camino College was at a 95% performance level for its ETP programs, compared to other providers who had percentages in the 80s or even 60s.
“The reason some of these other colleges are so excited is that they’ve seen what El Camino’s been able to do with the TrackPoint solution,” Eldon said. “All of a sudden you have a product that a lot of people would beg to have.”
Thanks to all the data El Camino College has gathered and verified, they were able to to start sharing how significant the ETP programs are statewide, both in producing graduates and helping the existing workforce.
“We’re not just helping future graduates, we’re helping the ones that are already in jobs. We’re able to help them keep their jobs and even increase their wages because of this program,” explained Eldon.
El Camino is now able to answer concrete questions about ETP programs: Did we help your company improve productivity? Did we help you cut cost? They can demonstrate to the legislature how effective the program is, and that translates into dollars.
Utilizing El Camino’s TrackPoint system with other colleges as a collaborative, ETP programs’ share of state funding has doubled. State funding is always competitive, but as Eldon explained, “almost every one of those other competitors went to the wayside. No one could compete against us because we were able to demonstrate our worth, and what a good job we’re doing statewide.”
One of the many dashboards that help give El Camino business insights.
The Chancellor’s Office was blown away by El Camino’s data and their capability to share how significant the ETP program is, including how many employees they train and how many people they’ve helped in the existing workforce. “And for larger manufacturing companies, they’re showing the impact on keeping these companies strong, healthy, and in California, which is part of keeping the state as a whole strong.”
The goal now is for all colleges across California to get stronger in collecting and reporting this data, and El Camino’s TrackPoint database is already being viewed as a model to make that happen statewide.
"Knowing you have a product where the company cares about you as a customer, you’re not just seen as a number."
Though Knack has already made a major impact for El Camino College, this is only the beginning. John and the team have plenty of ideas for expanding its use.
In addition to bringing their tracking app to other schools, they’re also aiming to make it even more robust. They’ll be adding in user roles to allow different levels of access and dashboards for different end users.
For example, each college’s subcontractors and instructors will be able to sign on and see their students’ performance and progress. Corporations would likewise be able to login to view their employees’ progress.
Currently, ETP requires physical signatures, but the option for signing digitally is already built into their Knack app, ready to go whenever digital signatures are approved.
“What started out to be just this little program for one college could potentially be a statewide implementation,” John said. “And it has the potential to streamline processes even further.”
He sees no limit to Knack’s potential: “You can take something from a simple one object, one table application like a contact database all the way up to an enterprise solution that would involve CRM to HR enrollment to financials.”
When it comes to trusting a product, Eldon added, the company behind the product is just as important. “Knowing you have a product where the company cares about you as a customer, you’re not just seen as a number — I don’t know if you’d call it a feature, it’s more what’s important to a company.”