Posts Tagged ‘Workforce training’

Manufacturing employers have for some time lamented the fact that they have plenty of job openings – said to be in the hundreds of thousands nationwide — with a distinct lack of qualified candidates to fill these newer positions in advanced manufacturing.  Today we share the hope of progress as related in a recent Time magazine article (June 12, 2017).  One answer, it would appear, lies in the growing number of community colleges that are teaming up and evolving their curriculum with local businesses to produce job-ready graduates.

One such effort at the Lake Area Technical Institute in South Dakota boasts an 83% retention rate (the national average is 50%) and that 99% of its graduates found jobs or went on to four-year colleges.  Starting salaries for graduates is over the state median, and over 300 areas businesses are participating.

Unfortunately, LATI’s success is not universal.  Community colleges educate about 40% of all U.S. undergraduates according to Time, and fewer than 40% of students graduate.  Meanwhile, states are cutting funding, and with more of the financial burden being placed on students, fewer can afford them.

Fortunately, some states are taking steps to make community colleges more accessible.  Tennessee expanded its free community-college program to accept all adults in the state.  Other states including New York and Oregon are making free or low-cost (with conditions) higher education available.

Most critically, post-recession, these colleges are starting to take a more vocational approach, and are becoming a primary vehicle for workforce training in the country, according to the director of the Center for the Study of Community Colleges.  According to Georgetown University, 11.6 million jobs were created in the post-recession recovery, and all but 100,000 went to people with some college education.

Creative ideas for job-training abound.  In Texas, a community college repurposed a shopping mall to become a high-tech learning lab with over 600 computers.  George Mason Univ. worked with Northern Virginia Community College (second in size only to Indiana’s community college, Ivy Tech) to co-develop curriculum to make it easier for students to transfer from community to four-year college.

Colleges today like LATI “shape coursework around the needs of employers and [rely] on donations of heavy-duty machinery for classrooms.”  They use miniaturized assembly lines, robots, 3-D printers and LED panels to help students learn skills required to secure a well-paying job.  As one student there noted, “Most of my class already has jobs lined up, and it’s a month before graduation.”

Education Policy Researcher Carrie Fisker says “Community colleges are now seen as the primary vehicles for workforce training in this country.

And considering recent reports that half of all retail jobs will be disappearing in the years ahead, it’s news that can’t come too soon.


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