Community Colleges Rise as Leaders of Technological Education

Although the economy has slowly begun to piece itself back together, several new college graduates and incoming college students still have found themselves at a disadvantage in finding employment while holding liberal arts degrees, and thus, have continued to incorporate graduate school as a stepping-stone to either enter or elevate their career pursuits. Yet, instead of opting for admissions into some of the nation’s most prestigious and respected four-year institutions, many students have chosen community colleges in order to market themselves as competitive and qualified job candidates.

Traditionally attributed with their prevalent role in accommodating minorities and students from lower-income households, community colleges have become esteemed higher education programs within the last five years, servicing students from various backgrounds. With the community-oriented design of the two-year colleges, particularly in their tailored curriculum to accommodate the high demands of STEM careers, such institutions are reinventing themselves as the leaders of technological education.

“A lot of the STEM fields are occupationally defined programs that lead directly to employment. With many of our two-year associate programs, students enter our colleges and immediately begin studying in the field that they plan to work in,” said Chris Mullins, program director for policy analysis with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

The customized studies that students encountered at community colleges has attributed largely to the surge of post-graduate students that the two-year institutions have begun to withhold. According to the National Post Secondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), 8 percent of students entering community college already completed some form of higher education, whether they received a bachelor’s, master’s or sometimes even a doctoral degree. In the study, NSPAS estimated that approximately 849,000 students received associate degrees during the 2009-2010 academic year, which is a 50.4 percent increase from the last 10 years. Among the rising numbers of associate degrees awarded, there was a 105 percent increase in STEM-related fields during the same academic period.

Mullins explained that a large majority of students seeking advanced training in STEM careers have found community colleges advantageous, especially in the networks that they have gained from the school’s direct links to local employers. “By having connections within local industries, it helps to make sure our programs are in line with employer expectations, especially since education is a large part of employment,” Mullins said. (Read more.)

Via Cherise Lesesne, Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Posted in Community College (13-14), CTE, Technology. Comments Off on Community Colleges Rise as Leaders of Technological Education

Shoring up The Gap Between Workers, Available Jobs

When it comes to bridging the gap between available workers and available jobs, one thing is certain: it’s complicated.

“What the problem is depends on who you ask,” said Ray Suarez, a senior correspondent at PBS who moderated a panel on Wednesday that kicked off an afternoon of roundtables that included leaders from community colleges, business and industry, government and other stakeholders.

Suarez noted some parties blame K-12 for not instilling the right academic skills in students, while others point at employers, who have pulled away from providing training for their workers. Another faction cites higher education for not analyzing more closely the specific workforce needs in their communities.

The panelists agreed that it’s a mix of all the above. Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Grainger, said companies used to provide the training to upgrade their workers’ skills. That’s now a dying practice.

However, it’s crucial for businesses to find ways to ensure that their workers are upgrading their skills in order to be competitive, Ryan said. Not filling available positions costs companies in the long run through overtime and other related expenses. Add impending retirements to the mix and the problem magnifies.

“This is a matter of competitive survival,” Ryan said. <Read more.>

Via Matthew Dembicki, Community College Times.

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Automotive Programs Need to Respond to Industry Changes

Community colleges need to retool their automotive programs to adapt to a changing industry that needs fewer workers with more advanced skills, according to an auto industry researcher.

The U.S. auto industry is not only back, but productivity is continuing to increase and both General Motors and Ford are again profitable, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor and Industry Group at the Center for Automotive Research, who spoke at the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual Workforce Development Institute.

While the news is promising, it’s not great. Production levels, sales and employment rates have not returned to pre-recession levels. The number of jobs in auto production were down 54 percent at the height of the recession and have only come back 26 percent, Dziczek said.

Coming soon

The jobs that have come back are more technology-driven than before, which means workers will need new skill sets, said Dziczek, who noted that more than 80 percent of vehicles produced by Toyota will be hybrids by 2020. Small trucks will increasingly have turbo-charged motors, and there’s a big push for more fuel-efficient, motor-assist vehicles, she said. Also, manufacturers are using new composite materials that promote both fuel economy and safety. The materials are bonded with adhesives rather than welding.  (Read more.)

Via Ellie Ashford, Community College Times.

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CTE Month: U.S. Department of Education and States Recognize CTE Month

Career Technical Education (CTE) is working across the nation to enable students of all ages to excel in their schools and colleges, and secure high-demand jobs. This month, CTE students and professionals from across the country are celebrating CTE Month to raise public awareness of the value of CTE programs to individuals, communities, business and industry, and the nation’s economy.

U.S. Department of Education Celebrates CTE Month

The U.S. Department of Education is among those celebrating CTE Month through a schedule of activities that highlights outstanding CTE programs. The Department will also draw attention to the need to align all CTE programs to the needs of in-demand fields. Learn more

California State Superintendent Calls for Career Readiness Initiative

California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson has recognized February as CTE Month as he works to expand and promote CTE courses in California’s public schools. Through his Career Readiness Campaign, Torlakson has directed the California Department of Education to work toward 17 key objectives for supporting and strengthening CTE. Some of the objectives include:

  • Joining the CTE: Learning that Works for America campaign and adopting a CTE: Learning that Works for California logo.
  • Making efforts to educate stakeholders on the benefits of CTE
  • Developing strategies to increase CTE student enrollment
  • Supporting and expanding Career Technical Student Organizations
  • Promoting articulation agreements and concurrent enrollment opportunities
  • Increasing web presence to promote career readiness

California schools offer more than 42,000 CTE classes and serve more than 1 million students. Learn more

Via Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager, CTE Blog.

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Freshman Survey: This Year, Even More Focused on Jobs

Today’s freshmen are focused on the future. They are certain they’ll finish their degrees in four years, despite evidence to the contrary; they want to land good jobs after graduation; and they increasingly aspire to be well-off.

Those are among the many findings of the 2012 Freshman Survey, published on Thursday by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, part of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. The annual survey delves into nearly every aspect of first-year students’ lives: study habits, religious beliefs, family income, career goals, even exercise habits. This year’s survey was administered last fall to 192,912 first-time, full-time students at 283 four-year colleges and universities.

At a time of public debate over the value of college, the findings reveal heightened expectations that a degree will provide economic security. In 1976 about two-thirds of freshmen said the ability to get a better job was a very important reason to go to college; in 2012, an all-time high of 88 percent said so.

Students also want to earn a good living: This year nearly three in four—the highest proportion on record—said the ability to make more money was a very important reason to go to college.

The tight economy appears to have affected students’ values as well as their choice of college, says John H. Pryor, director of the research program. As in the past, a majority of students still said they went to college to get an education and gain an appreciation of ideas. It’s just that now, more of them put an even greater value on job-related reasons. (Read more.)

Via Libby Sander, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

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