CCs set enrollment priorities

With too many students and not enough funding, some community colleges are setting enrollment priorities, reports Community College Times.

California is expected to give registration priority to continuing students who are making progress toward a certificate, degree, transfer or career  objective, first-time students who participate in orientation and assessment and develop an education plan and students who begin addressing basic skills deficiencies in their first year.

Students would lose enrollment priority if they fail to declare a program of study by the end of their third time, fail to follow their education plan or land on academic probation for two consecutive terms. In addition, students who earn 100 units (not including basic skills and English as a second language courses) would go to the end of the line when signing up for classes. Because many colleges don’t offer enough classes to meet demand, those students could be shut out entirely.

It’s not just California.

Large enrollment increases, driven by dislocated workers seeking training in new skills, has forced Forsyth Technical Community College (FTCC) in North Carolina to cap the number of students admitted to certain programs, said President Gary Green, a former member of the American Association of Community Colleges’ board of directors. Since 2007, enrollment has grown by 43 percent.

. . .  A strong demand for some programs, such as nursing and allied health, has prompted FTCC to implement selective admissions, based on test scores and grades.

Recently, employers have been seeking skilled workers in advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology. “We’re not able to provide enough graduates to meet the rapid increase in demand,” Green said.

Who pays for job training?

Competing for new jobs in a bad economy, states are paying employers’ training costs, reports the New York Times. North Carolina is a leader, using its strong community colleges to design and teach customized curricula.

KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Some of Caterpillar’s newest factory workers are training inside a former carpet warehouse here in the heart of tobacco country. In classrooms, they click through online tutorials and study blueprints emblazoned with the company’s logo. And on a mock factory floor, they learn to use wrenches, hoses and power tools that they will need to build axles for large mining trucks.

The primary beneficiary is undoubtedly Caterpillar, a maker of industrial equipment with rising profits that has a new plant about 10 miles away in Winston-Salem.

Yet North Carolina is picking up much of the cost. It is paying about $1 million to help nearly 400 workers acquire these skills, and a community college has committed to develop a custom curriculum that Caterpillar has valued at about $4.3 million.

Caterpillar is one of dozens of companies, many with growing profits and large cash reserves, that have come to expect such largess from states in return for creating jobs. The labor market is finally starting to show some signs of improvement, with the government reporting on Friday that employers created 200,000 jobs in December.

There’s no guarantee the jobs will be permanent. North Carolina spent nearly $2 million to train workers for a Dell factory that closed after five years. Some of those workers are now training to work at Caterpillar.

Caterpillar is investing $426 million in the new factory in Winston-Salem, where unemployment is 10 percent. The state offered a $51 million package of incentives, including the training, to get the factory.

The state is also paying to train workers for a new Honda Aircraft factory in Greensboro, an expanding Siemens plant in Charlotte and an existing call center in Winston-Salem for US Airways, which relocated 200 jobs from Manila last year.

According to the state, North Carolina spent about $9.4 million to train workers as part of projects that created nearly 4,500 jobs in the 12 months through June 30. (The total cost per job rises sharply beyond the $2,000 in training because of voluminous tax breaks and other incentives.)

One of the first new Caterpillar workers is Dante Durant, a 42-year-old former Dell employee. He attended a Caterpillar job fair at Forsyth Technical Community College, took a series of tests administered by staff at Forsyth Tech and passed training classes taught primarily by Forsyth Tech instructors.

Caterpillar will create 392 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $40,000 in Winston-Salem, company executives predict.

A few good manufacturing jobs

On a Factory Field Trip to new plants in North Carolina, New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera sees the future of manufacturing.

The factories are immense and use complex robotics to make gigantic axles for Caterpillar mining trucks and 280-ton gas turbines for Siemens.

. . .  these plants offer something that has become increasingly rare: middle-class jobs that don’t require a college degree. The jobs pay between $20 and $30 an hour, plus benefits, allowing a skilled machinist to make a decent middle-class living.

The key word, of course, is “skilled.” One reason Siemens and Caterpillar chose North Carolina is that Charlotte and Winston-Salem have community colleges that stress manufacturing skills. In Winston-Salem, Forsyth Tech, a local community college, was involved in wooing Caterpillar and created a program, in cooperation with the company, to make sure its graduates have the machining skills the company needs. Job training was part of the incentives packages that were dangled in front of the companies to lure them to North Carolina.

The U.S. can compete with China in high-tech manufacturing, especially when shipping costs are factored in, a plant manager said.

But the new factories are very efficient, which means they don’t need many workers.

Caterpillar, which is getting an estimated $14 million in incentives, will employ only 500 or so workers in Winston-Salem. Siemens expects to hire no more than 800 people in the Charlotte facility.


Obama will visit Forsyth Tech

President Obama will tour biotech classrooms at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina today. He’ll discuss the grim economic news: Employers added only 39,000 jobs in November, far fewer than the 150,000 expected by economists, while the unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent.

This our generation’s “Sputnik moment,” said Obama, calling for investing in math and science education, as the U.S. did in response to the Soviet challenge. But the National Defense Education Act, which increased federal spending after Sputnik, did not raise math and science scores, writes Andrew Coulson on Cato @ Liberty. He’s got graphs.

Tech college sells Caterpillar on NC site

When Caterpillar Inc. decided to build a $426 million manufacturing plant in Forsyth County, North Carolina, the local community college got the credit for sealing the deal, reports Community College Week. The plant is expected to create 500 jobs.

Forsyth Technical Community College President Gary Green worked with local leaders to sell Caterpillar on the North Carolina site.

“As far as I’m concerned, the main reason we are here at Forsyth Tech is because Caterpillar heard Forsyth Tech say, ‘We can do the job’ and nobody else said that,” said Dave Plyler, the chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

. . . Michael Murphy, an executive at Caterpillar, said Forsyth Tech demonstrated a willingness to be flexible in how it trained prospective employees, according to the Journal. ”We’re looking at Forsyth Tech to help us train a quality work force,” he said. “These machine tools cost millions of dollars apiece and we don’t wants to crash them.”

North Carolina’s 58 community colleges routinely offer employers customized training programs. Forsyth Tech also is part of the Manufacturing Institute, a Gates-funded pilot program that “gives students a chance to learn skills in the classroom while acquiring industry-recognized certifications,” the Journal reports.