The trucking industry needs to hire 95,000 new truckers every year, but training programs turn out only 75,000 and half the job applicants are ineligible due to recent drunk driving convictions. A startup called WorkAmerica is trying to fill the gap: The company vets would-be truckers and places them in community college training programs — with a guaranteed job offer.
“No student should enroll in a vocational job program without having a job guarantee,” said Collin Gutman, WorkAmerica’s CEO and co-founder. “We get jobs for people before they start a college class.”
“A growing number of startups want to play the matchmaker role between community colleges and employers,” reports Inside Higher Ed.
WorkAmerica plans to forge partnerships with community colleges and expand into high-churn fields such as welding, medical assistants, and IT and HVAC technicians.
Employers pay the company to screen prospective hires. If they meet the company’s requirements, they get a job offer good if the applicant completes the academic program in good standing. Community colleges, which pay nothing, “get a pipeline of students without having to spend on marketing,” reports Inside Higher Ed.
Maryland’s Hagerstown Community College is considering a partnership with WorkAmerica for the college’s eight-week trucking program. The company is talking to Anne Arundel Community College , also in Maryland, about pilot programs in several fields beyond trucking, Gutman said.
Another company, Workforce IO, has created a technology platform to link employers with job trainers such as community colleges, nonprofit organizations, mentors or bosses.
Workforce IO hinges on being able to vouch for the reliability of entry-level job candidates. It does that by having created a “library of skills” in various fields and offering digital badges for those skills, said Elena Valentine, a co-founder of the company.
Workforce IO has collaborated with Grand Rapids Community College, in Michigan, as well as an Illinois campus of Everest College, a for-profit institution.
“The idea is not new, but the technology gives more power, flexibility and opportunity to make use of the limited face-to-face time we have for true student engagement and interactive learning.” says Eric Kunnen, director of distance learning and instructional technologies.
Says Professor Garry Brand, GRCC’s lead faculty facilitator of distance learning and instructional technologies, in a TechSmith whitepaper: “These days, students who miss an important point the first time have a second chance. After class, they can pipe the lecture to their laptops or MP3 players and hear it again while looking at the slides that illustrate the talk.”
Shifting lectures to out-of-class time lets professors cover more material and prepares students to participate in class discussions, advocates hope.
Long plagued by a high failure rate, the college is now offering some students the opportunity to bypass at least one of their semester-long developmental classes in reading, math and English by completing them in a condensed three-week period.
Fast Track students take classes for three hours a day, four days. In August, 141 students qualified for college-level courses.
“For adults with children at home and complicated lives, it helps them get their degree more quickly,” said Cynthia Martin, Dean of Adult and Developmental Education. “Plus “it saves them money.”
Less than half of students who take basic math – arithmetic, fractions and decimals – pass the course at GRCC.
Lauro Mireles, an 18-year-old Holland resident, chose Fast Track instead of developmental math. It’s a quicker way to get what you want,” said Mireles, who’s pursuing an associate degree in automotive technology.
Grand Rapids Community College is teaching English, math and biology instructors how to teach reading reports Michigan Live. Reading Apprenticeship focuses on helping students understand their textbooks.
“Reading a biology textbook, many students will gloss over it and think they’ve read it, but they won’t take what they need away from it,” said John Cowles, GRCC’s associate dean for counseling, advising and retention services.
. . . You have individuals from the factory worker who has been laid-off and is very rusty,” he said. “You maybe have the recent high school graduate who maybe didn’t take high school so seriously. Or maybe they were told they weren’t going to make it and they didn’t try.”
About 45 percent of first-time, full-time GRCC students leave in a year, including dropouts and transfers. Of students who started in fall 2008, 15 percent had earned a degree within four years and 33 percent transferred.
After two years of rapid growth, enrollment may have peaked at Grand Rapids Community College. Five percent fewer students have enrolled, so far, at the Michigan college.
“We’ve been experiencing unprecedented growth during the last two years, and I think a part of that was people taking advantage of resources out there for retraining that are being scaled back,” (President Steven) Ender told trustees.
Grand Rapids Community College is under fire from a trustee for subsdizing “evil things,” such as funding a theater group that performed a play depicting Jesus as a gay man, reports the Grand Rapids Press. Trustee Richard Ryskamp also “objected to spending $30,000 for the Woodrick Diversity Learning Center and $15,000 for the Diversity Lecture Series, which last year included Angela Davis,” a former Black Panther and Communist Party candidate for vice president.
The board will debate funding controversial programs, probably at a retreat for board members. However, trustee Janice Maggini said the board should stick to making policy and avoid “stepping into operational matters,” which would be “inappropriate.”
In June, Ryskamp was the lone vote against the $106 million budget after members would not remove funding for the groups. He said it is wrong to ask students to pay higher tuition while the college subsidizes groups he said offer programs in the name of diversity but seem to cover only one side of the political spectrum.
“As a board member, we have a responsibility to the taxpayers and should be looking at whether groups we are supporting are espousing ideologies and are meeting a standard of decency,” Ryskamp said at the time.
He’d be on stronger ground if he questioned ideological bias rather than “evil.”
Via Washington Monthly’s College Guide