North Carolina teachers toured manufacturing plants and learned that advanced manufacturing jobs require high-tech skills and pay as well or better than many jobs that require a bachelor’s degree. Jobs also require the ability to work in teams, follow directions and read well, teachers were told.
Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) and the Triangle South Workforce Development Board organized Manufacturing Day for local K-12 teachers, reports Community College Daily.
“About 70 percent of the manufacturing jobs in North Carolina require a two-year associate degree, not a four-year degree,” said Cathy Swindell, CCCC’s director of industry services.
Technicians can make more than teachers: An industrial systems maintenance technician with a two-year degree may start at $45,000 to $50,000 and $70,000 to $80,000 after 10 years on the job.
At the CCCC Innovation Center, two of the K-12 teachers learned how to use a welding simulator. They used a simulated welding “torch” that created a computer-generated image of their work.
Earning a vocational certificate in one year or less can raise earnings significantly, concludes a forthcoming study announced at a Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment conference. Past research has found labor market payoffs only for longer-term certificates.
Di Xu and Madeline Trimble, researchers at the Community College Research Center, found “positive, significant returns” for short-term certificates earned at community colleges in Virginia and North Carolina, reports Inside Higher Ed.
North Carolina students earned $1,172 more per year, on average, and were 7 percent more likely to be employed. Virginians who earned a certificate earned $888 more and were 3 percent more likely to be working.
The value of certificates varies, depending on the field, said Trimble. Earning a basic law enforcement certificate at a North Carolina community college leads to a $10,000-plus raise because the certificate is “tightly tied to licensing requirements” in the state, she said.
Short-term certificates in nursing or medical assisting failed to yield almost any labor-market returns, the research found, while longer-term certificates in those fields did well. And short-term certificates in some health-care disciplines, such as in phlebotomy in North Carolina or dental assisting in Virginia, did result in substantial wage gains.
At Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), certificates are stackable, said Bob Templin, NOVA’s president. Credits will count toward higher-level certificates and degrees.
Students who earn a 12-week certificate in an automotive technology field, such as one for an emissions specialist, are employed and earning $39,000 a year 18 months later, said Templin. But there’s little pay bump for people who earn emergency medical certificates because most students use them to become volunteer first responders for fire departments.
Associate degrees in liberal arts, humanities or general education don’t raise earnings, concludes a study by the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment. These degrees pay off only if they’re the first step to a bachelor’s degree.
College should not be the only gateway to the middle class, writes Robert Reich, who was Bill Clinton’s secretary of Labor, in Salon. Obsessed with bachelor’s degrees, “we’ve allowed vocational and technical education to be downgraded and denigrated,” he writes. But our economy needs skilled technicians.
As digital equipment replaces the jobs of routine workers and lower-level professionals, technicians are needed to install, monitor, repair, test, and upgrade all the equipment.
Hospital technicians are needed to monitor ever more complex equipment that now fills medical centers; office technicians, to fix the hardware and software responsible for much of the work that used to be done by secretaries and clerks.
Automobile technicians are in demand to repair the software that now powers our cars; manufacturing technicians, to upgrade the numerically controlled machines and 3-D printers that have replaced assembly lines; laboratory technicians, to install and test complex equipment for measuring results; telecommunications technicians, to install, upgrade, and repair the digital systems linking us to one another.
Community colleges train technicians at “bargain” prices, but they’re “systematically starved of funds,” writes Reich. State legislators “direct most higher-education funding to four-year colleges and universities because that’s what their middle-class constituents want for their kids.”
Business “executives are usually the products of four-year liberal arts institutions and don’t know the value of community colleges,” he adds.
By contrast, Germany provides its students the alternative of a world-class technical education that’s kept the German economy at the forefront of precision manufacturing and applied technology.
The skills taught are based on industry standards, and courses are designed by businesses that need the graduates. So when young Germans get their degrees, jobs are waiting for them.
Young Germans choose a technical or academic track by age 14, writes Reich. Americans wouldn’t go for that.
But we could “combine the last year of high school with the first year of community college” to train technicians, writes Reich. Employers “would help design the courses and promise jobs” to graduates. Late bloomers could pursue associate or bachelor’s degrees, if they choose.
North Carolina is adding five-year “early college” high schools, such as Wake Early College of Health and Sciences. Students can graduate with a two-year degree or health science certificate.
IBM helped design New York City’s P-TECH, which adds two years of college-level job training to four years of high school. IBM will hire graduates who want to go directly to the workforce.
P-TECH in Brooklyn fields a robotics team.
North Carolina is making it easier for students to predict the dollar value of college degrees, reports AP. A new state web site will provide median earnings, employment and post-degree education by major, degree and campus.
Five years after earning an associate degree in cardiovascular technology, community college graduates average $60,869. Other top-earning degrees are radiation therapy technology, fire protection technology, nuclear medicine technology and clinical trials research associate.
The median income for associate degree graduates in all subjects was $30,345 after five years. (The search function isn’t fully operational for associate degrees and doesn’t work at all for certificates.)
Nuclear engineering graduates average $89,537 a year five years after earning a bachelor’s degree. Theater graduates average $10,400.
“Of course, there are many paths to success. So this is not a recommendation, it’s just a way to arm students and families with good, useful information,” said Peter Hans, who pushed for the project when he was chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.
Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, said North Carolina’s program, inaugurated last week, is one of the best at showing the value of a degree. He expects college instructors to hate it. “They don’t get up every day and think about getting somebody a job. They’re teaching history or something, so this is news to them,” Carnevale said.
Maine also has launched a site with earnings information by degree for community college and state university graduates.
Earning an associate or bachelor’s degree paid off for students who enrolled in North Carolina community colleges in 2002-03, concludes a working paper from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE). The economic returns for health-care credentials such as nursing were “extremely high.”
However, certificates did not produce strong economic benefits.
The recession did not erode the “substantial and consistent” gains from earning a two-year degree, the report found. “Even accumulating some college credits (but no degree) led to higher earnings for students.”
Students who earned degrees in nursing, allied health fields, construction, mechanics and welding improved their earning significantly, reports Community College Daily. However, there were no economic returns for women who earned education or child care degrees; men in those fields actually did worse.
The CAPSEE review tracked incomes five years after initial enrollment for students enrolling between 2001 and 2008 and completing an associate degree. It found that the advantage conferred by a degree remained consistent — about $4,800 per year for women and $3,000 per year for men — despite the recession starting in late 2007.
Graduates were less likely to be unemployed, according to CAPSEE.
New college students will enter a structured program, reports Community College Times. Even high school students in dual enrollment programs will be encouraged to enroll tuition-free in a pathway that leads to a technical or bachelor’s degree.
The system also used research and analysis to identify and address “momentum loss points”—points where students become bogged down and too often pulled off course in their goals toward completion. In community colleges, that usually happens in a student’s first semester or first academic year, particularly in developmental education programs.
“We found too many students entering developmental education without exiting, which is why we have completely redesigned our efforts in North Carolina,” Ralls said.
The colleges tapped expert math and English faculty members across the state to re-engineer curriculum to shorten the length of courses and to develop modules to let students get the courses they need.
The state system also worked with high schools to align career and college readiness testing. Now students will know early whether they’re on track to take college-level community college classes.
Eighty technical programs in in transportation, energy, manufacturing, environment and construction now offer “stackable” credentials. A student can earn a certificate, leave college for the workforce and return later to add an advanced credential.
Texas community colleges are creating stackable credentials for oilfield workers, reports Inside Higher Ed. Oil and gas workers can qualify for an entry-level job, then return to college for more training.
Community colleges are working hard to keep up with petrochemical companies’ demand for workers. The jobs pay well, and many associate degree-holders earn $50,000 to $70,000 a year right out of college.
Students can start at one college, move to follow the jobs and enroll at a new college without losing credits.
Several community colleges have teamed up to create a central core of 36 credits toward a 60-credit associate degree aimed at oil and gas workers. Those courses, which include 15 credits’ worth of accreditor-mandated general education requirements and 21 credits of specialized soft and mechanical skills training, are designed to transfer around the state.
Each credential “stacks” on the one before. “Courses for shorter-term certificates count toward degrees,” notes Inside Higher Ed.
A “marketable skills achievement award,” which takes 9 to 14 credits, leads to an entry-level job.
Next up is a “level one” certificate, which usually takes a year to complete. For example, a basic certificate in process technology at Brazosport is 15 credits. Others can be more involved, with 18 or more credits.
Level two certificates follow. They tend to be somewhat-specialized 30-credit programs. Eventually students can wrap up 60-credit associate degrees in production or processing technology.
That’s not even the last step. Some community colleges have partnered with four-year institutions to create transitions to bachelor’s programs for oil and gas workers. Brazosport, for example, has a transfer agreement with the nearby University of Houston at Victoria for a bachelor’s in applied technology.
Large employers, such as Chevron and Dow Chemical, require an associate degree for new hires. But they’ll hire interns who are working on a degree for as much as $22 an hour.
Texas colleges plan to create stackable credentials for other fields, such as allied health careers and information technology.
North Carolina’s community colleges have created a “green jobs” pathway.
Most entering community college students say they plan to earn a bachelor’s degree, but few reach that goal. Earning an associate degree before transferring significantly boosts the odds of success, concludes a Community College Research Center study in North Carolina. “Relatively few students who transfer early ever complete a bachelor’s degree and thus leave college with no credential.”
. . . almost two thirds of students who start out in community college have no recognized credential up to nine years later; many transfer to another institution—either in the public, private, or for-profit sector—with the intention of earning a bachelor’s degree but ultimately terminate their postsecondary education without earning any degree.
Community college students who complete an associate degree will earn more than those who never completed a credential, the study found.
Some students go to college to drink beer. At three North Carolina community colleges, students will learn how to make beer, reports the Halifax Media Group. Blue Ridge Community College, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and Rockingham Community College plan to offer certificates and associate degrees in Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation, pending state approval, which is expected next week.
Craft breweries and wineries are thriving in Western North Carolina. It’s like California’s Napa Valley in the 1970s, says Chris English, dean of applied technology.
“I see a re-branding of ourselves in Henderson and Transylvania counties being something a little bit different,” English said, “because forever we’ve been known for our apples and we’ll continue to be known for our apples – that’s a huge product in our area – but I also think now we have something else to offer. And I think it’s a way to attract new industry to the area. We have the capability, especially with Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues being here.”
BRCC has piloted the program through the Oskar Blues Summer Brew School, a continuing education program run in partnership with the local craft brewery.
The degree program will teach the science of brewing plus hands-on manufacturing skills tied to the college’s new mechatronics program, says English. Mechatronics training will qualify students for manufacturing as well as brewery jobs, says English.
In a few years, high school graduates in North Carolina will earn diplomas showing their readiness for university, community college or careers, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. Each seal requires a minimum 2.6 grade point average, basically a C+.
To earn the community college readiness seal, graduates must have completed Algebra II or integrated math III.
In February, the community college board decided graduates with a minimum 2.6 GPA can skip placement tests and start in college-level courses. The system’s research showed that 20 percent of students placed in remedial courses could have succeeded at the college level. High school grades are the best predictor of college success, the study concluded.
To earn the career readiness seal, students must
take four career/technical courses, score well on ACT’s WorkKeys exam, or have an industry-recognized credential, such a car repair certificate, Microsoft suite certification, or SAS programmer credentials.