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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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.

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AACC Begins Work to Implement 21st-Century Blueprint

With its recommendations on setting a new course for community colleges for the next decade on the table, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has started work on developing strategies to implement those plans, beginning with workforce development.

AACC last week convened community college leaders from across the country to discuss workforce development and the implications of the recommendations in AACC’s Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future. The participants reviewed AACC initiatives, how the association can best support member colleges in workforce and economic development, and policy considerations in the field.

“Workforce is so important to our country and to what we do at AACC,” said Walter Bumphus, the association’s president and CEO, noting that he will use input from the implementation teams to help him develop priorities for the report’s recommendations.

The report, released in April by a blue-ribbon commission, focused on three broad areas of improvement: redesigning students’ educational experience, reinventing institutional roles and resetting the system. The commission included seven recommendations under those three areas, from improving college readiness, to strategically targeting public and private investments. (Read more.)

Via Matthew Dembicki, Community College Times.

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