Preparing America For Middle-Skill Work

Anthony Carnevale, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, shares his views on the importance of middle-skill jobs to the U.S. economy, and the role community colleges play in putting students to work.

Q: Why are middle-skill jobs so important to growing the U.S. economy?

A: Almost a third—17 million out of 55 million—new job openings between 2010 and 2020 are going to require middle skills, as baby boomers retire and new jobs are created.

Middle-skill jobs are also important because they often pay middle-class wages. For example, 62 percent of middle-skill jobs pay $35,000 or more per year and 14 percent pay $75,000 or more. What’s even more striking is that middle-skill jobs can pay more than jobs for workers with bachelor’s degrees. For instance, 31 percent of entry-level associate-degree jobs and 27 percent of jobs requiring some form of licensure or certification pay more than entry-level BA positions.

Q: What makes community colleges the ideal institutions to train middle-skill workers?

A: Community colleges are ideally situated to provide both practical career and technical preparation as well as general learning. The mix of general academic learning and workforce preparation that is the unique signature of the nation’s community colleges can lead to both further education and learning on the job. Moreover, the community colleges’ mix of general competencies and workforce development allows students to live more fully in their time by becoming more active citizens and successful workers.

The inescapable reality is that ours is a society based on work. Those who are not equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to get, and keep, good jobs are denied the genuine social inclusion that is the real test of full citizenship. Those denied the education required for good jobs tend to drop out of the mainstream culture, polity and economy. It is crucial that community colleges retain their workforce mission. If community college educators cannot fulfill their economic mission to help youths and adults become successful workers, they also will fail in their cultural and political missions to create good neighbors, good citizens and self-possessed individuals who can live fully in their time.

Community colleges have for decades been doing what middle-skill workers need now: retraining the long-term unemployed, matching new graduates’ skill sets to job opportunities through internships and mentoring, serving regional geographic localities and training-up nontraditional students. These things form the backbone of the community college mandate.

The community colleges’ dual educational and workforce development missions provide institutes with a lot of room to grow, as well as an opportunity to flex their muscles as they already stand head and shoulders above the rest in the movement toward truly comprehensive postsecondary institutions. (Read more.)

Via Times Staff, Community College Times.

Advertisements
Posted in Community College (13-14), CTE, Postsecondary (13-18). Tags: , . Comments Off on Preparing America For Middle-Skill Work

New Department of Labor Initiative Focuses on Workforce Development

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.)

Via Beatrice Townsend, Diverse Issues in Higher Ed.

Posted in Funding, Postsecondary (13-18). Tags: , , . Comments Off on New Department of Labor Initiative Focuses on Workforce Development

Where You’re 18 Times More Likely to Find a Job

Having a college degree can give you a leg up on those with only a high school diploma, but just how much of an advantage depends on where you go.

Some of the widest gaps between job openings for workers who have college educations and those who don’t are in central California, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

In the Bakersfield, Calif., metro area, there were 18 times the number of job openings for college grads versus those with high school diplomas or less in 2010.

One of the main problems there is that the residents have little education so they don’t have many opportunities. Most of the jobs are in agriculture or oil production.

“A high school degree is no longer going to cut it,” said Richard Chapman, head of the development organization, noting that companies are looking for skilled workers. “The worst thing is to have a job opening and no one to fill it.”

The Brookings report analyzed the educational requirements for new jobs in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. It found that places with a greater concentration of college graduates have better job prospects for both those with degrees and those who just finished high school. (Read more.)

Via Tami Luhby @CNNMoney.

Posted in Postsecondary (13-18). Tags: , . Comments Off on Where You’re 18 Times More Likely to Find a Job

Where the Jobs Are, the Training May Not Be

As state funding has dwindled, public colleges have raised tuition and are now resorting to even more desperate measures — cutting training for jobs the economy needs most.

Technical, engineering and health care expertise are among the few skills in huge demand even in today’s lackluster job market. They are also, unfortunately, some of the most expensive subjects to teach. As a result, state colleges in NebraskaNevada,South DakotaColoradoMichigan, Florida and Texas have eliminated entire engineering and computer science departments.

At one community college in North Carolina — a state with a severe nursing shortage — nursing program applicants so outnumber available slots that there is a waiting list just to get on the waiting list.

This squeeze is one result of the states’ 25-year withdrawal from higher education. During and immediately after the last few recessions, states slashed financing for colleges. Then when the economy recovered, most states never fully restored the money that had been cut. The recent recession has amplified the problem.

“There has been a shift from the belief that we as a nation benefit from higher education, to a belief that it’s the people receiving the education who primarily benefit and so they should foot the bill,” said Ronald G. Ehrenberg, the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute and a trustee of the State University of New York system.

Even large tuition increases have not fully offset state cuts, since many state legislatures cap how much colleges can charge for each course. So classes get bigger, tenured faculty members are replaced with adjuncts and technical courses are sacrificed.

State appropriations for colleges fell by 7.6 percent in 2011-12, the largest annual decline in at least five decades, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. In one extreme example, Arizona has slashed its college budget by 31 percent since the recession began in 2007.

It is this cumulative public divestment — and not extravagances like climbing walls or recreational centers advertised on a few elite campuses — that is primarily responsible for skyrocketing tuitions at state institutions, which enroll three out of every four college students.

Even large tuition increases have not fully offset state cuts, since many state legislatures cap how much colleges can charge for each course. So classes get bigger, tenured faculty members are replaced with adjuncts and technical courses are sacrificed.

State appropriations for colleges fell by 7.6 percent in 2011-12, the largest annual decline in at least five decades, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. In one extreme example, Arizona has slashed its college budget by 31 percent since the recession began in 2007.

It is this cumulative public divestment — and not extravagances like climbing walls or recreational centers advertised on a few elite campuses — that is primarily responsible for skyrocketing tuitions at state institutions, which enroll three out of every four college students. <Read more.>

Via Catherine Rampell, New York Times.

Posted in Community College (13-14), Funding, Postsecondary (13-18). Tags: , . Comments Off on Where the Jobs Are, the Training May Not Be

Community Colleges Struggle to Train Workers With Limited Funds

Business leaders depend on community colleges to offer work-force training, but high unemployment and state budget cuts have made it harder for the sector to do that work. That’s the message of a report released on Wednesday by the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama.

The report, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Challenges Community Colleges Face to Reach the Unemployed,” is the third in a series based on results from the latest annual survey, conducted over the summer, of the 51 members of the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges (Georgia has two).

Two years ago, 11 members of the council reported that unemployed workers in their states could attend community colleges tuition-free for retraining. By 2010, only four indicated that was the case. Unemployment, meanwhile, has remained stubbornly high, while stimulus funds have dwindled and state tax revenues have yet to bounce back. This year members from 21 states reported that funds for work-force training had been exhausted.

Nearly three-fourths of survey respondents agreed that in the face of such challenges, community colleges are being pushed to offer “quick” job training without academic credit. That limits colleges’ ability to invest in more expensive long-term programs, the report says, in fields like allied health, engineering, and information technology—the very fields that need more workers and tend to offer better pay. Forty-two members indicated that their states need more funds to expand programs in those areas.

The report ends with a warning. “Even as community colleges have long been known for persisting despite budget cuts and enrollment increases,” the authors say, “we are left wondering whether the sector has neared its limits.”

Via Beckie Supiano, Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Posted in Community College (13-14). Tags: , , . Comments Off on Community Colleges Struggle to Train Workers With Limited Funds