Job 1 is job training

Job training is job one for the fast-growing Louisiana Community and Technical College System, reports Community College Week.  The state is rebuilding its economy, says Monty Sullivan, the new president of LCTCS.

“We have an economy that is growing faster than nearly anywhere else in the country, which means our workforce needs are greater than ever,” says Sullivan.

 “We need to link the needs of employers with our educational institutions,” Gov. Bobby Jindal told the Associated Press. “I think our big challenge this session is getting ready for this manufacturing expansion.”

Only 27.9 percent of Louisiana’s working-age adults hold a two- or four-year college degree, well below the national average of 38.7 percent.

A number of states are stressing workforce development,  according to the Education Commission of the States.

In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley wants to create a Statewide Workforce Council of business and industry leaders to advise colleges on workforce needs. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal has called for a Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative to bring together education officials, industry leaders and economic development officials to identify workforce needs. In Idaho, Gov. C.L. Otter wants to improve a workforce grant program to better target individual businesses and industry sectors.

Louisiana is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in training facilities and workforce “centers of excellence” linked to their regional economies.

 Baton Rouge Community College, for example, is planning a center that will focus on transportation and logistics; its home city is the ninth-largest port in the United States. Delgado Community College, in New Orleans, is home to a culinary arts and hospitality center of excellence.

Industry partners supply at least 20 percent of the funding. 

At Fletcher Technical Community College, the Deepwater Center for Workforce Excellence will train oilfield engineers and technicians. BP America Inc. contributed $4 million to pay for state-of-the-art equipment.

‘Reinvented’ Chicago colleges are growing

An advanced manufacturing program is drawing students to Chicago’s Richard J. Daley College.

“Once considered a deeply troubled urban institution where enrollment was plummeting, graduation rates were dismal and degrees held little value, the City Colleges of Chicago are undergoing a turnaround under the leadership of Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, reports Community College Weekly.  She arrived in 2010 pledging “reinvention” of the seven-college system. Enrollment and graduation rates are on the rise.

Two Chicago city colleges — Richard J. Daley and Olive-Harvey — are among the fastest-growing in the nation, Community College Weekly reports.

Hyman credits “strategic efforts to realign our programs with the demands of employers and four-year colleges alike and target our adult education offerings to community needs.” 

Launched in 2011, College to Careers enlists industry partners to help redesign job training programs. Each college has a vocational mission. Daley College focuses on high-tech manufacturing. Olive-Harvey specializes in training students for logistics and transportation careers.

Nationwide, community college enrollment is down by 4 percent as the recession eases.

Wal-Mart touts U.S. manufacturing

“After decades of sending work overseas through ruthless price competition,” Wal-Mart is bringing jobs “back to America, by committing to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars more in U.S.-made goods,” reports the Washington Post.

The Wal-Mart Foundation is funding a middle-skill job training initiative of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs narrates a Wal-Mart ad proclaiming “work is a beautiful thing.”

Job training vs. art history?

Speaking at a General Electric plant in Wisconsin, President Obama said learning skilled manufacturing or the trades pays as well as earning an art history degree.

Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree — I love art history. (Laughter.) So I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody. (Laughter.) I’m just saying you can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four-year college education as long as you get the skills and the training that you need. (Applause.)

Hackles were raised, writes Ann Althouse.

Arts education teaches critical thinking, responded Linda Downs, who directs the College Art Association.

Obama is promoting “job-driven training,” which means training for jobs that exist. That does sound like a good idea.

Vice President Joe Biden will lead a review of the many federal job training programs. The Government Accountability Office reviewed federal job training programs in 2011, but perhaps more have been created since then.

Revving up for Detroit’s rebound

Detroit is losing jobs and people. The city is bankrupt. Hopes for an economic rebound center on job training provided by the Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD, reports Community College Daily.

“When economic times get tough, community colleges do much more because we have to,” said Shawna Forbes, vice chancellor for WCCCD’s School of Continuing Education and Workforce Development.

Many manufacturing companies want employees with associate degrees. WCCCD worked with Detroit Employment Solutions Corp. (DESC) to select 100 people for a 19-week program that combines job training with internships at local companies. “We’re looking at quickly moving people along a career pathway,” said WCCCD Vice Chancellor George Swan. “People are not going to get a certificate and that’s it.”

WCCCD is “incredibly important in job growth,” and the planning and implementation of the strategic plan is clearly informed by the role the college can play, said Dan Kinkead, director of Detroit Future City.

The district is stepping up job training in growth areas such as advanced manufacturing, information technology and health data management.

A new science center specializes in training surgical technicians (pictured), dental assistants, phlebotomy technicians and nurses. The center also offers health exams to community residents.

Last year, WCCCD created a fast-track “IT boot camp” to train people for jobs with Infosys, Compuware, Quicken and other companies. “The program focused on people who worked in office automation or technology in the automobile industry and had been displaced or had worked with older computer systems and now need to upgrade their skills,” reports Community College Daily.

The college will open a center this winter for cybersecurity training.

Right Skills Now, launched last year, enables students to earn certifications in metalworking, then go on to train on advanced manufacturing equipment. Employers provide advice and work experience.

. . . the college is also gearing up for training people to work on a new light rail line that will link downtown Detroit to Pontiac, Mich. Construction on the highly automated, computer-based system is expected to start this spring, and there will be jobs for people trained in electromechanical systems, as well as signaling and communications systems.

New bus and shuttle systems will be linked with the light rail line, and a new high-speed rapid bus system, running in dedicated lanes, will link Detroit to Jackson, Mich. Two cohorts of 30 students each are in a WCCCD program on the operation and maintenance of these systems.

Detroit has seen growth in recent years in manufacturing, logistics and food and beverage processing. Quicken Loans moved to downtown Detroit in 2010. But the city lacks a skilled workforce. Twenty percent of residents haven’t completed high school.

Women can do it

College of DuPage (Illinois) is trying to persuade women to try nontraditional careers that offer better pay.

Nontraditional Careers has produced a DVD series on women in nontraditional careers. The latest features women in manufacturing who make everything from kayak paddles, waterbeds for dairy cows and cast-iron skillets to artificial eyes.

Textile industry trains new U.S. workers

Recruiting and training new textile workers for jobs in the U.S. is a challenge, reports the New York Times.

The American textile and apparel industries, like manufacturing as a whole, are experiencing a nascent turnaround as apparel and textile companies demand higher quality, more reliable scheduling and fewer safety problems than they encounter overseas. Accidents like the factory collapse in Bangladesh earlier this year, which killed more than 1,000 workers, have reinforced the push for domestic production.

But because the industries were decimated over the last two decades — 77 percent of the American work force has been lost since 1990 as companies moved jobs abroad — manufacturers are now scrambling to find workers to fill the specialized jobs that have not been taken over by machines.

In Minneapolis, manufacturers teamed with a nonprofit and a technical college to train new workers in a six-month program two or three nights a week.

Applicants needed to speak English well enough to communicate with supervisors and to be able to measure precisely. Eighteen students enrolled in the first session. Half were immigrants. Charities and the city covered the $3,695 tuition. Students will be expected to pay for the course themselves in the future.

After the course, the companies, which pay to belong to the coalition, sponsored students for a three-week rotation on their factory floors and a two-week internship at minimum wage. Then the free-for-all began as the members competed to hire those graduates who decide to pursue a career in industrial sewing.

But only nine students completed the course and applied for sewing jobs, which paid $12 to $16 an hour.

Airtex Design Group, which now pays $11.80 an hour for Chinese workers, decided to train new workers on the factory floor. The company uses a technical-college instructor and existing employees. “The reality is, if we want good workers we know we have to train them and bring them in ourselves,” (Airtex President Susan) Shields said.

Obama (re)proposes job training fund

Funding community college-based job training and creating industry-college manufacturing institutes will create “middle-class jobs,” President Obama said in a speech at an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, reports Inside Higher Ed.

In a major speech Tuesday on job creation Obama repackaged a February budget proposal for an $8 billion “Community College to Career Fund.”

. . . Another idea the administration unveiled Tuesday that involves higher education is the creation of 45 manufacturing innovation institutes, which link companies, colleges and government. That proposal builds on a pilot program in Youngstown, Ohio, as well as three new manufacturing institutes that are slated for creation later this year.

Obama proposed cutting corporate tax rates and taxing foreign earnings of U.S. companies, which would raise revenue to help pay for the community college plan and other proposals. But he didn’t discuss the “grand bargain” with Republicans, who said it was just a ploy to raise government spending.

The community college fund — worth $8 billion when Obama proposed it in February — would support training two million community college students for high-demand jobs, according to the White House.

In 2009, President Obama announced a $12 billion American Graduation Initiative to fund job training at community colleges. A lower priority than health-care reform, it was allowed to die. However, community colleges have received $2 billion in U.S. Department of Labor workforce development funding that “appears to be having a substantial impact,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

Half of STEM jobs don’t require 4-year degree

Half of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs are open to workers without a bachelor’s degree, according to a new Brookings report, The Hidden STEM Economy.  These jobs in manufacturing, health care, construction, installation, maintenance and repair pay $53,000 on average, 10 percent more than jobs with similar educational requirements. For example, a computer systems analyst averages $82,320 without a four-year degree, according to Brookings.

Overall, 20 percent of U.S. jobs now require STEM skills, Brookings estimates.

Even in high-tech Silicon Valley, there’s a demand for people with math and fix-it skills but no bachelor’s degree, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Tae Kim and other students learn computer software for drafting and manufacturing at De Anza College in Cupertino. (Patrick Tehan, Bay Area News Group)

“Jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree represent a hidden and unheralded STEM economy,” said Jonathan Rothwell, author of the report. ”The overemphasis on four-year and higher degrees as the only route to these careers has neglected cheaper and more widely available pathways,” he said.

The report urges policymakers to boost funding for training in such careers as toolmaking, technical writing and technician work — the critical pick-and-shovel brigades in tech’s gold rush. Of the $4.3 billion spent annually by the federal government on tech-oriented education and training, just one-fifth goes toward training below the bachelor’s degree level. National Science Foundation spending largely ignores community colleges, it asserts.

At De Anza College‘s Manufacturing/CNC Technology Lab, students learn to run software programs and visualize multidimensional projects using $500,000 machines.

“There was a time when machine operators just pushed buttons. Those are the jobs we’ve lost — the simple, cheap, push-button jobs,” said Mike Appio, the lab’s department head. “Now everything is numbers. You need the ability to keep machines running on five axes spinning at one time.”

Patrick Pickerell dropped out of high school, learned to make coiled metal springs and kept on going. He runs Peridot, which specializes in precision manufacturing. His workers need ”math proficiency, but not advanced math, like calculus,” he said. “Kids that are gearheads are excellent candidates … people who enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together.”

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.