Kickstarting lives

Teaching at a community college is inspiring, writes Stacia L. Brown, an adjunct writing instructor at the Community College of Baltimore County, on Vitae.

Listening to my retired veterans, my 18-year-old recovering addicts, and my young parents trying to drive a wedge between themselves and poverty, I unearthed which social causes were worth my championing. And I learned how vastly different someone’s reasoning can be from my own, based on the environment in which he or she was raised.

. . . I was empowering ex-convicts to combat recidivism, encouraging low-income kids to persevere toward the four-year degree they’d always wanted. I was inspiring young mothers. And most important, I had the great privilege of convincing my students they they had not just valid, but vital, academic voices and that they were a critical part of intellectual discourse.

To teach community college is to have the constant sense that something is beginning to happen. We are kickstarting lives, in ways we will never entirely know.

Instructors don’t always see their influence, writes Oakland Community College (Michigan) professor Linda Boynton in Hidden Harvest. “Parents become positive role models for their children or other family members. Cycles of failure get broken. Students, once content with low-paying, unfulfilling jobs, begin to want more, which means they find the courage to face rejection instead of letting it control them.”

Spiders show where the jobs are

In a fast-moving economy, spiders are showing colleges where the jobs, so they can target job training, writes the Hechinger Report. Artificial-intelligence spiders “crawl through search engines” to read online “help wanted” ads daily. Colleges can update — or eliminate — job programs quickly.

Federal labor data can be two years out of date or more, said John Dorrer, a program director at Jobs for the Future. Without current information, “We’re training people for jobs that don’t exist, and not training people for jobs that do.”

Based on real-time labor-market information, the Lone Star College System in Texas will close three programs next fall, in aviation management, hospitality management and computer support. It found that employers prefer four-year to two-year degrees in the first two cases, and were outsourcing work in the third. But it is adding programs to train oil and gas drillers and CT-scan technicians, for which there is burgeoning demand.

. . . Cabrillo College in California thought its program in medical assisting was doing well—until spidering technology showed there wasn’t much hiring going on in the field, and a survey of graduates confirmed that fewer than 30 percent had jobs in it. So the college raised the program’s standards to a level employers told them they needed.

Archana Mani took time out of the workforce to raise her children and discovered her master’s in information systems wasn’t enough to qualify for a job. She enrolled in Oakland Community College near Detroit, which was offering an accelerated course to train programmers to build and test new software applications. Once spiders told the college about the demand, it took only three months to create the course. Mani completed the program and was hired by a quickly expanding branch of Hewlett-Packard in Pontiac, Mich.