Obama backs ‘job-driven training’

President Obama endorsed bipartisan job training legislation in his weekly address. He plans to visit a Los Angeles community college that’s retraining workers for health-care jobs this week. Vice President Biden will release a report on creating a “job-driven training system.”

Not all apprenticeships are equal

Apprenticeships are hot, but not all lead to middle-class jobs, writes Mark Schneider on The Quick and the Ed.

Last month, President Obama announced a $100 million fund to support apprenticeship programs in fields such as information technology, health care and advanced manufacturing. For all the praise of apprenticeships, the number enrolled is much lower than 10 years ago. Completions are down from 52,000 in 2002 to 44,000 today.

The White House says that 87 percent of apprentices find jobs that average more than $50,000 a year in pay. This is an exaggeration, according to Florida data. The median wage is $37,252 for registered apprentices, who typically study at a community or technical college.


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Graduates with an associate degree in science earn the most, with the associate in applied science coming second and apprentices a close third.  Graduates with a bachelor’s degree start at only $33,652. 

Starting wages are much higher for apprentices in jobs that “keep things working” than for those in cooking and early childhood education. Elevator construction mechanics start at $67,565.


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“The best training is on-the-job training,” says Linda Poage, program manager at the Apprenticeship and Journeyman Training Center at Spokane Community College. Community College Daily looks at existing college-linked apprenticeship programs and plans for expansion with new federal dollars.

P-Tech’s 9-14 model expands in New York

At Brooklyn’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, known as P-Tech, students study a curriculum designed with help from IBM, work with mentors supplied by IBM and get on the inside track for IBM jobs when they graduate — potentially with an associate degree. The employer-linked grade 9-14 academic model will be replicated at 16 sites across the state, said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The P-Tech model already has been copied at other schools in New York City, as well as in Chicago and Idaho,” reports Education Week.

While the Brooklyn-based version of P-Tech was connected to IBM, the partnerships in other parts of the state have drawn employers not just in technology, but health care, manufacturing, engineering, environmentally friendly building, and other industries. Companies who have come on board in communities across the state include Cisco, Lockheed Martin, Arkwin Industries, and others.

“This groundbreaking program will give students across the state the opportunity to earn a college degree without taking on significant debt from student loans while also starting on a pathway to a good-paying job when they graduate,” Cuomo said in a statement.

P-Tech opened two years ago, so “it remains to be seen how successful it will be in fulfilling its college-and-career goals for students,” notes Ed Week.

Immigrants learn English, job skills

Maryland community colleges have added English as a Second Language and GED programs to serve a growing number of immigrant students.

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At Prince George’s Community College’s (PGCC) International Education Center, health care careers is the most popular program for immigrant students. But many need to improve their English. “PGCC and four other community colleges in Maryland created an accelerated program—modeled on Washington state’s I-Best program—that provides language and skills training,” reports Community College Times.

In addition to Latinos, PGCC draws students from Africa and other countries.

About 25 percent of the nation’s 6.5 million degree-seeking community college students were foreign born in 2004-05, according to a U.S. Education Department report​.

4-year grads turn to 2-year schools for job skills

Underemployed four-year graduates are enrolling in community colleges to learn job skills, reports the Chicago Tribune.

In 2010, Jessica Underwood graduated from Carthage College in Wisconsin “with a stellar academic record, a can-do attitude and a newly minted business degree.” Her bachelor’s degree was “just like a ticket to nowhere,” Underwood told the Trib. Despite sending as many as 10 job applications a day, she found only low-wage, low-skilled office, retail and telemarketing jobs.

 Three years after graduation, Underwood decided that she needed to reboot — and fast. At the College of DuPage, she enrolled in the paralegal certification program, which offered a robust hiring outlook, but also the chance to reinvent herself in only 18 months.

She owes $60,000 in student loans for her business degree.

Illinois community colleges are touting accelerated programs to help the underemployed get a fresh start.

At Prairie State College, the  “Career in a Year” campaign boosted enrollment by 50 percent in programs training home inspectors and dialysis and pharmacy technicians.

Harper College‘s launch of a “fast track” advanced manufacturing program — certification in one semester, followed by a paid internship with a partner company — attracted a standing-room-only crowd.

More than ever, companies want people adept at communicating, critical thinking and problem solving — all hallmarks of a liberal arts education. Studies continue to show that people with a four-year degree earn more, on average, over the course of their lifetime than those without college degrees. But employers say there’s often a mismatch between what traditional colleges are producing and what they need.

“Middle-skills” jobs, which require a certificate or associate degree, can qualify graduates for middle-class paychecks. Demand is high in health care fields, information technology and manufacturing, reports the Tribune.

Even nursing grads struggle to find jobs

Nursing “pays well, and people will always require health care, so there will always be a need for nurses,” says Amber Tench, who’s working on an associate degree in nursing at North Georgia Technical College. But new RNs are having trouble finding jobs, reports Georgia Health News.

More than one-third of newly licensed RNs graduating in 2011 had not found employment four months after graduation, according to a September 2011 survey of more than 3,700 new RN grads by the National Student Nurses Association.

Eighty percent of the grads said employers were hiring only RNs with at least two years of experience; 70 percent said the market was flooded with new graduates like themselves; 45 percent encountered hiring freezes; and 20 percent said that even previously employed RNs were being laid off.

On allnurses.com, new graduates complain that they can’t get started in their profession.

“I’m working at a retail store in the mall.”

“Out of the seemingly hundreds of applications I’ve put in, I’ve had only two interviews, neither of which worked out. At this point, I’m feeling pretty hopeless and really just need a job.”

“Help!!! I’ve tried hospitals, nursing homes, and doctors’ offices. I’ve stayed up all night crying about this for months, and I feel like by the time I do finally get a job I’ll practically [have forgotten] everything I’ve learned!”

New RNs are volunteering in hospitals to gain experience in hopes of qualifying for a job.

Because of the weak economy, fewer nurses are taking time off to raise children; older nurses are postponing retirement. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a strong demand for RNs and other health-care workers in coming years, brand-new graduates want to start working now.

Not all degrees are created equal

For today’s college graduates, “what you make depends on what you take,” advises Hard Times 2013, a new report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. “Not all degrees are created equal.”

Overall, 7.9 percent of recent college graduates are out of work, but jobless rates are lower in health care, education, business and engineering fields, higher in non-technical majors such as the arts (9.8%) or law and public policy (9.2%).

• Even as the housing bubble seems to be dissipating, unemployment rates for recent architecture graduates have remained high (12.8%).

• People who make technology are still better off than people who use technology. Unemployment rates for recent graduates in information systems, concentrated in clerical functions, is high (14.7%) compared with mathematics (5.9%) and computer science (8.7%).

Median earnings among recent college graduates range from $54,000 for engineering majors to $30,000 for graduates who majored in the arts, psychology and social work.

Colleges accelerate and ‘stack’ job training

With the help of Labor Department grants, community colleges are accelerating job training programs aimed at adults and “stacking” workforce credentials, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Working with employers, Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges have accelerated training for jobs in health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology, biotechnology, green energy and financial services.

In addition to prior-learning assessment and competency-based education, colleges are creating stackable credentials. Students can earn a short-term certificate, find a job and return later to add a higher credential.

For advanced manufacturing, the final product was a pyramid of competencies employees should ideally master to work at various job levels. The colleges worked with manufacturers statewide to develop those standards.

For example, in the precision machining field, entry-level jobs like assemblers or warehouse workers should have skills in five major areas: shop math, blueprint reading, metrology, problem solving and workplace readiness. But further up the pyramid, supervisors and managers should hold certificates and degrees in manufacturing technology, as well as more learned skills, such as programming, and a minimum number of hours working in the industry.

Stacking also works well for health-care credentials, said Ana Sanchez, the “career and college navigator”  at Springfield Technical Community College. “Everybody wants to be a nurse,” but not everyone has the math and science skills needed. In one or two semesters, students can earn a certificate as a patient care technician or medical admin. It can be a quick route to the workforce and, for some, the first step on the path to a nursing degree.

Technical certificates, degrees pay off in Texas

Texans who earn a vocational certificate often earn more than associate-degree graduates in their first year in the workforce, concludes Higher Education Pays: The Initial Earnings of Graduates of Texas Public Colleges and Universities Who Are Working in Texas. Some workers with certificates earn more than $70,000 – $30,000 more than the median for graduates with bachelor’s degrees, concludes the Lumina-funded study by College Measures, a joint venture of the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the Matrix Knowledge Group.

The median starting pay for criminal justice/police science certificate holders is $48,192, double the compared with $24,298 for those with an academic associate’s degree. Some health-care certificates allowed graduates to earn $70,000. Other high-paying certificates included:  construction engineering technology/technician, electrician, pipefitting,  engineering, industrial technology, and instrumentation technician.

However, not all certificates lead to high-paying jobs. Recipients of two dozen certificate programs earned less than $13,000 in their first year on the job. Cosmetologists and  nursing/patient care assistants usually earned low wages.

Technical associate’s degrees pay well: The median starting salary is more than $50,000. By contrast, an academic associate degree lead to median earnings of $24,298,

First-year earnings for bachelor’s degree holders range from about $25,000 (biology) to about $47,000 (accounting): The average is $39,725.

Community college graduates’ first-year salaries vary from one college to another.

 Academic associate’s degrees range from about $10,000 (Ranger College) to more than $30,000 for graduates from the Trinity Campus of Tarrant County Junior College and from Central Texas Community College.

For graduates with technical degrees, the range is even greater, from about $20,000 for graduates of Clarendon College to more than $65,000 for graduates from seven community colleges: College of the Mainland Community College District, San Jacinto College South Campus, Tarrant County Junior College South Campus, Galveston College, El Centro College, Trinity Valley Community College and Weatherford College.

national study and analyses in Tennessee and Virginia have found similar results:  Technical certificates and associate degrees often pay better than non-technical bachelor’s degrees at the start of graduates’ careers.

India will open 200 community colleges

India plans to open 200 community colleges in the next few years, reports Community College Times.  U.S. college leaders participated in a New Delhi conference on community and technical college models from Canada, Britain, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the United States.

The U.S. delegation, representing a dozen community colleges, was led by Tara Sonenshine, under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Sonenshine told conference attendees that community colleges can be a crucial resource in educating India’s “youth bulge”—the nation has 600 million people under age 25—for meaningful jobs in a nation with a shortage of skilled workers.

The new colleges will offer “credit-based modular courses to facilitate mobility of learners into the employment market,” the Times of India reported.

Leaders from the Coleman College for Health Sciences in the Houston Community College System and Grossmont College (California) discussed training students for health careers. Kapi‘olani Community College (Hawaii) and Tidewater Community College (Virginia) leaders spoke about hospitality training and officials from Macomb Community College (Michigan) and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System gave presentations on their automotive training.