With the help of $2 billion in federal job training grants community colleges are helping students earn industry-recognized credentials that will show they’re ready for work, reports Community College Times.
Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) in Kansas is the leader of a consortium that will use its $14.9-million grant to develop industry credentials for the aviation industry. WATC and its partners — Tulsa Community College (Oklahoma), Ivy Tech Community College (Indiana), Guilford Technical Community College (North Carolina) and Edmonds Community College (Washington)—are all located near aviation manufacturing facilities, said Sheree Utash, vice president for academic affairs at WATC. The Wichita area, for example, has Spirit AeroSystems, Bombardier Learjet, Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft plants nearby.
Aviation industry professionals will help develop the curriculum, which will be used by all colleges in the consortium.
The consortium will develop six stackable aviation credentials: sheet metal assembly, composite repair, computer numerical control (machining), electrical assembly, quality assurance and health and safety. The colleges will also create content for online courses and lab projects and implement transfer and articulation agreements.
Other community colleges are using federal grants to fund training in high-tech manufacturing. Harper College in Illinois is leading a statewide network that will create a curriculum leading to stackable, portable certificates in advanced manufacturing. Students will specialize in mechatronics/automation, numerical controls, metal fabrication and supply chain management/logistics.
Community colleges will get $500 million in federal grants to fund job training. The Labor and Education departments will work together on the program, which will focus on ”skills development and employment opportunities in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, as well as science, technology, engineering and math careers through partnerships between training providers and local employers.”
“Many employers are currently unable to fill well-paying jobs because applicants lack the skills,” says JFF President and CEO Marlene B. Seltzer. “Today’s good jobs require education beyond high school and training that prepares workers with practical skills that employers need. Accelerating Opportunity focuses on educational programs that lead to the credentials workers need to secure a family-sustaining job and long-lasting career opportunities.”
Accelerating Opportunity hopes to create career pathways leading to “marketable, stackable, credit-bearing credentials” in at least 40 community colleges by 2014.
North Carolina community colleges have consolidated “green” jobs’ programs, creating stackable credentials that let students move easily between jobs and advanced schooling, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Using employer feedback on core skills and competencies, the 58-college system created 47 new courses, revised 219 and dropped 92.
“Our goal was not to create one-off programs” at individual campuses, said Scott Ralls, the system’s president. “It’s a curriculum that cuts across 58 colleges.”
. . . The program, named the Code Green Super Curriculum Improvement Project, affects academic areas related to building, energy, environment, transportation and engineering technology. More than 80 curriculum standards were consolidated into 32 revised ones, based on “career clusters” like architecture and construction technology (see box).
In many cases, students can earn an industry-recognized certificate with 12 to 18 credits, find a job and return later to any community college in the state to work toward a higher-level certificate or degree.
In addition to technical courses, the new energy credentials include “employability competencies,” such as working in teams.
Chicago’s city colleges are closing the skills gap, writes Chancellor Cheryl Hyman. Last December, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hyman launched the College to Careers initiative.
College to Careers has attracted major corporate partners, from UPS to United Airlines, from Walgreen to CVS, who are eager to help City Colleges develop what we call “credentials of economic value,” meaning that students earn credentials that have real value to both employers and 4-year colleges.
In the next decade, strong job growth is projected in health care, transportation, distribution and logistics (TDL), business, information technology, culinary/hospitality and manufacturing, Hyman writes. Chicago started with a focus on health care and TDL.
Through College to Careers, industry-leading companies work collaboratively with our faculty and staff to design the curriculum and facilities needed to train students for success. They provide City Colleges’ students with access to teacher-practitioners, internships and the latest technologies, as well as a first pass at job interviews. Why are our partners investing their time and resources? They clearly realize that the quality of their future is tied to the quality of America’s workforce, and therefore, our students’ success.
In addition, City Colleges is developing stackable credentials: Each certificate or degree will be valuable on its own and be a step toward a higher-level credential.
One partner, Allscripts, which provides electronic records and information systems to hospitals and physicians, hired 48 City Colleges’ graduates this summer, Hyman writes. The first six months of the new hires’ salaries will be supported through a $2-million fund created by the mayor.
Low-income community college students who enter a program of study or concentration increase their chances of success, concludes a new Community College Research Center study of first-time students in Washington state. However, many disadvantaged students start at low remedial levels, attempt few credits and quit before starting a program of study aimed at a certificate or associate degree.
Students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds who did focus their studies were more likely than advantaged students to choose career-technical education (CTE), where completion rates are lower than in liberal arts and sciences. They disproportionately study education, child care and secretarial services, which have low completion rates and often lead to low-paying jobs. However, low-SES students are well represented in nursing and allied health fields, which lead to relatively high-paying jobs.
Some researchers and policy analysts have suggested that it would be beneficial to encourage more students into pathways that involve multiple, ―stackable credentials in CTE fields with relatively high labor market returns. Given that liberal arts and sciences is the default pathway for the majority of younger students, convincing recent high school graduates to choose a CTE path would likely require a fundamental shift in the way high schools and community colleges guide and prepare young, first-time college students.
Increasing the rate at which students “enter coherent programs of study” could help boost completion rates, researchers concluded. More than half of younger, first-time college students tried to pursue a credential or said they intended to try but didn’t follow through. These students could be “low-hanging fruit.”
Low-SES students struggle at every step on the way to a credential, researchers found. However, they do better relative to others in career education, suggesting that “career education pathways could be a promising route to help reduce the attainment gap.”
New and retrained workers need a way to prove their skills, argues a new ACT report, Breaking New Ground, which calls for building a national workforce skills credentialing system.
Currently, credentialing is “crowded, chaotic and confusing,” ACT claims. Many certificates “are not portable (between institutions, employers or states), transferable or stackable so that they fit within a defined career pathway.”
The U.S. has plenty of low-skilled workers and just enough college graduates to fill jobs requiring a four-year degree, the report concludes. The challenge is to close the “middle-skills gap.”
By 2014, approximately 45 percent of all jobs will fall in this category, but only 25 percent of the workforce will be qualified to successfully perform these jobs.
About 90 million Americans — roughly half the U.S. workforce — need more education, training or English fluency to earn enough to support a family, ACT estimates.
Across all industries, employers report increasing demands for skills in problem solving and critical thinking, communication, teamwork, entrepreneurship and business. Skills and credentials in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) will continue to be in high demand, impacting requirements at all levels of the workforce.
The U.S. is falling behind our competitors in degree attainment, as President Obama has stressed. About 39 percent of adults have completed a two-year or four-year degree, a proportion that has been flat for nearly 30 years.
ACT adds another problem: An increasing number of individuals are earning degrees that do not prepare them for 21st-century jobs. Most adults realize they need advanced skills to earn a living, but don’t know how to “create an achievable personal career plan.”
A key recommendation of the report is the need for a “layered” credentialing system, recognized nationally, that begins with a single foundational skills credential with increasingly more-targeted occupational and job-specific skills credentials layered on top.
Some community and technical colleges have designed career pathways that let students acquire job credentials en route to higher-level certificates or an occupational associate degree. Certificates Count, a report by Complete College America, also recommends more layered or “stackable” certificates.