While most of us would not debate the value of a four-year degree, this American dream remains beyond the reach of many as the cost of a college education continues to rise. However, even in 2012, there are many family-sustainable occupations to be had without that sometimes-elusive document.
The U.S. Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Department of Education, has recently awarded 54 grants to 297 schools across the U.S., District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to increase workplace development programs in community colleges around the country, thanks to a provision in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act signed by President Obama in 2010. The initiative—the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) program—awards grants for training programs to enable schools to meet the needs of local industries in an ongoing effort to develop a stronger national workforce.
According to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, nearly half of all job openings in the next decade will be “middle-skill” jobs, requiring less than a four-year degree, but requiring more than a high school diploma. She sees these grant programs as “tickets to employment.”
In Nebraska, which boasts a 4 percent unemployment rate, the primary problem is the lack of people with industry-required skills. The manufacturing industry is working closely with schools so that training is geared to move the student directly from school to work. Soft skills, such as getting to work on time, are also addressed to make these students “career-ready.”
According to Tony Raimondo, chair of the Nebraska Advanced Manufacturing Coalition, “Over 80 percent of manufacturers report a moderate to serious shortage of skilled talent in the hiring pool.”
Nebraska’s Central Community College is a leader in a consortium in workforce development. There, the DOL grant will help address a state-wide need for manufacturers by allowing the school to offer a manufacturing generalist degree consisting of 12 hours of core requirements. One may choose to continue to get an industry certificate, then go on to a diploma (32 credit hours), then on to a full two-year associate degree. (Read more.)