Entrepreneurship isn’t just for educational elites, reports Community College Week. Innovation Fund America — a joint project of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Ohio’s Lorain County Community College — is helping open-access colleges back local entrepreneurs.
Lorain’s foundation founded the IFA in 2007 as Northeast Ohio struggled to replace manufacturing jobs.
The IFA offers support to new and young businesses through pre-seed stage access to capital, intensive coaching and mentoring, with internship and educational opportunities for students. Since its founding, the IFA has invested nearly $6.5 million in about 100 companies, creating more than 300 jobs and providing more than 150 paid internships for LCCC students
Kauffman focuses on entrepreneurship education. The idea is catching on, reports Community College Week. The National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship, founded in 2002, now counts more than 300 college members.
Catawba Valley’s community has been hit hard by the collapse of furniture manufacturing and textile mills. The college is moving from job training to job creation.
Last month, the college announced the start of Innovation Fund North Carolina, which is planning to award $1.2 million in grants and loans to high-tech startups across the state over the next year. The future of the state economy, said college President Gordon Hinshaw, now depends on new business startups and small businesses. The grants will focus on startups related to agriculture, advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology.
Money will go to businesses in the “pre-seed” stage, those that have exhausted their personal resources, don’t have investors or venture capital backing but need capital to grow. . . . Businesses must agree to intense coaching and mentoring and agree to take on students for paid internships.
Workforce development experience makes community colleges a natural place for entrepreneurship initiatives, Hinshaw said. “Our boots are on the ground every day. We are charged with making connections with our citizens. That’s our job.”
Without a local community college, Erie County, Pennsylvania is losing industry and skilled jobs,writes Mandy Zatynski on Education Sector. Industry won’t invest until Erie invests in training its younger generation.
GE Transportation decided to open a new locomotive plant in Fort Worth in 2011, rather than expanding in Erie, which lost 1,050 jobs. A Forth Worth community college will train machinists and welders in four weeks for jobs in the new factory.
Erie has long fallen short in providing the sort of high-tech training a corporation like GE requires. Recently, 220 employers who responded to an Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership survey said they had almost 2,000 open jobs, but lacked enough skilled workers to fill them. Destination Erie, a consortium formed to revitalize the area’s economy, has already identified this jobs-skills mismatch as one of the region’s top roadblocks to economic growth.
GE will lay off 950 machinists, many with only on-the-job training, adding to the county’s unemployment rate. But laid-off workers have few postsecondary options other than pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Many of the 2,000 open jobs don’t require a four-year degree, but do require the kind of training community colleges provide.
More than 41 percent of Erie workers conclude their education with a high school diploma, in part because of “the limited and overpriced post-secondary options that cater only to those seeking white-collar work,” writes Zatynski.
Penn State Behrend and Mercyhurst University officials are turning more attention to two-year programs, but for the average displaced worker, the costs of these programs are often prohibitive. Annual tuition at Behrend reaches almost $14,000 per year, and tuition at Mercyhurst is the highest in the county at $29,037. Its North East campus charges about half as much, but for someone who is unemployed, these are simply not realistic prices.
The county’s six for-profit colleges advertise attractive educational programs for health care and information technology, but these schools are graduating students with unmanageable debt. Student loan default rates among the area’s for-profit schools are as high as 31 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, indicating that these graduates are unable to find sufficient work to repay their loans.
In short, none of the educational offerings in Erie County provides the flexibility or affordability of a community college, an option that Erie County Council dismissed in 2010 even though the state had allocated table games revenue to help start such an institution.
“When International Paper closed its plant (in 2001), a county-commissioned report spelled economic doom if leaders didn’t establish a community college or otherwise invest in its workforce,” Zatynski writes. “Twelve years later, the picture looks even worse.”
Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges are working with industry on workforce development with the help of a $20 million federal grant, reports Worcester Business Journal.
The Massachusetts Community Colleges and Workforce Development Transformation Agenda (MCCWDTA) is redesigning degree and certificate programs in six high-demand industries: health care, biotechnology and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, clean energy and sustainability, information technology and financial services.
Students will brush up on academic skills while training for jobs, said Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates in a speech at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester. “They cannot sit in a classroom for two semesters because they need to brush up on fractions and decimals,” Oates said.
College and career navigators will help students enroll in courses and use the One‐Stop Career Center on each campus under the new initiative. Industry representatives, college administrators and faculty will design job training programs together.
Lumina Foundation’s new strategic plan for 2013-2016 describes new ideas for ways to reach the foundation’s goal: 60 percent of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials by 2025. The plan calls for:
Creating new models of student financial support that make college more affordable, make costs more predictable and transparent, provide incentives to increase completion, and align federal, state and institutional policies and programs.
Creating new higher education business and finance models that significantly expand the nation’s capacity to deliver affordable, high-quality education—supported by public finance and regulatory policies that create incentives for, and remove barriers to, innovation.
Creating new systems of quality credentials and credits defined by learning and competencies rather than time, clear and transparent pathways to students, high-quality learning, and alignment with workforce needs and trends.
Lumina plans to spend $300 million over the next four years.
“There hasn’t been enough progress on the attainment agenda,” Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president, told Inside Higher Ed.
Lumina will also continue to push completion-related efforts at both the state and federal levels. And the foundation’s leadebbrs said federal policy would be crucial in shaping a modern higher education system necessary to encourage the 23 million additional degrees and meaningful credentials needed to hit 60 percent attainment.
They pointed to a desperate need for strong leadership at the federal level on questions about the structure of student aid, quality assurance and accreditation, and the alignment of workforce development and higher education.
Lumina wants to make it easier for students who’ve learned on the job, online or on their own to earn credits for competency. Officials also are keeping an eye on “emerging forms of credentialing, like certificates issued by massive open online course (MOOC) providers,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Lumina will add certificates to its Degree Qualifications Profile, which “attempts to establish what constitutes a valuable college degree.”
President Obama focused on the workforce development mission of community colleges in his State of the Union Speech, calling on community colleges to train two million skilled workers for unfilled jobs.
Workforce development is the flavor of the month, writes Community College Dean. But it’s not as easy as politicians think to turn out skilled workers.
The most predictable lower-level workforce needs are actually the skills we expect students to pick up in their general education courses: effective communication, the ability to see the big picture, enough quantitative skill to know when an answer doesn’t sound right. Those skills are evergreens, and like evergreens, they take time to grow.
There are always a few local employers who need workers who can be trained quickly, the dean writes. But those jobs get filled by the first or second cohort of trainees.
Many would-be workers need literacy or English as a Second Language classes. Community colleges’ developmental track is geared towards getting students into a degree program. Adult Basic Education is a better fit, but often is underfunded and can’t meet the demand.
The dean’s advice:
If you want to improve the prospects of the local workforce, start with adult basic education, add short-term training programs, and beef up the classic academic offerings at community colleges for transfer. . . . Otherwise, you’ll just keep cycling people through training programs every few years, every time the economic winds shift.
The second word in “community college” is “college,” the dean points out. Community colleges are in danger of being defined purely as job training centers.
Massachusetts should expand statewide control of its 15 community colleges argues a new report from the influential Boston Foundation. In the centralized system focused on job training, colleges should be judged and funded based on student performance, the report concluded.
The state’s community colleges “have failed to connect in a systemic way with prospective workforce, economic development and employer partners,” reports Inside Higher Ed.
As a result there is no way to make broad curriculum changes based on workforce needs, it argues, and colleges and community-based groups compete for resources rather than cooperate.
“There are good programs within the community college system, but the system as a whole is under-resourced, overly fragmented, and not well aligned with the needs of Massachusetts employers in the knowledge economy,” said Paul S. Grogan, the foundation’s president, in a written statement.
Virginia’s centralized community college system was offered as a model for Massachusetts.
Community college presidents believe they already collaborate, reports the Boston Globe.
“We think we’re doing a hell of a lot better job than we did in the past,’’ said William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College. “We’re on the case.’’
Job training “what we do,” said Ira Rubenzahl, president of Springfield Technical Community College, who was a panelist for the report’s presentation. “We’ve been doing it for 50 years.’’ “I’m concerned that [the proposed structural changes] will be disruptive at a time when our institutions are fragile.’’
The system needs “radical change,” not “tweaking,” responded Grogan.
Next door in Connecticut, the community colleges will share a state board with the Connecticut State University System, a move that’s not popular with college officials.
“Board consolidation is a trendy idea in some states, particularly when budgets are tight,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Louisiana may merge its higher education boards. A proposal in Rhode Island would create a single K-12 and higher education board.
Decentralization is on the table in other states, such as Wisconsin, which may separate its flagship university from the rest of the state university system.
Liberal arts classes aren’t frills, writes Rob Jenkins, an English professor at Georgia Perimeter College. Students prepare for success in the workforce by learning to write, analyze and solve problems in liberal arts classes.
Many Americans learn at a two-year college most of what they will ever learn—in a formal setting, at least—about writing, critical thinking, the history of our culture and civilization, the environment, and human behavior.
. . . Employers rank communication and analytical skills among the most important attributes they seek in new hires, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Perhaps those of us who teach those very skills at community colleges should embrace the integral role we play in preparing the nation’s workers rather than rejecting the idea of work-force development as somehow beneath us.
Communicating clearly in writing is a key to business success, so ”one of the best things we can do for students is to require them to write—a lot,” Jenkins argues.
Employers complain that many workers have difficulty thinking for themselves.
How many of us actually require our students to analyze material in an in-depth way (as opposed to providing them with convenient study sheets)? How many of us require them to draw inferences, make connections, reach and defend conclusions? Our liberal-arts courses are the ideal places to teach those cognitive skills that students need to be successful in the workplace.
Finally, liberal-arts instructors should connect what students are learning in class to the “real world.”
North Carolina could save $5.1 million a year by merging small community colleges with larger neighbors, but legislators are split on the idea and community college leaders are opposed.
North Carolina has 58 “quasi-independent” community colleges, with 162 campuses and off-campus centers in 91 counties, according to a report on cost-cutting options. Full-time equivalent enrollment ranges from 624 at Pamlico Community College to 16,200 at Central Piedmont. Smaller schools typically have higher administrative costs per student.
Fifteen colleges with fewer than 3,000 students could be merged with a larger college less than 30 miles away, the report suggests.
Senator Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, teaches at a community college. He said trying to yoke schools in neighboring counties together is “opening a Pandora’s Box.” Hise said different counties are on different rotations for property tax evaluations, and schools relying on two or three of them would likely get the short end of the budgeting stick from all of them.
Community colleges are “easily the most efficient” of any of the state’s educational systems, “and the most underfunded, too,” said Senate co-chairman Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus. However Hartsell said he’d consider the recommendations.
With gas prices high, students may be reluctant to drive farther for college classes.
Breanna Justice, who’s studying to be a surgical tech at Blue Ridge Community College, may drop out if Blue Ridge merges with Asheville-Buncombe Tech.
She has two small children and says driving to Asheville would mean less time with them and more time at the gas pump.
Blue Ridge President Molly Parkhill says the community college works closely with local employers to meet workforce needs. Moving to another location would make it harder to serve the community.
Community colleges are the key to developing a skilled workforce, concludes a Brookings Institution report, Community Colleges and Economic Recovery: Strategies for State Action. However, states must align workforce development policies with community colleges and colleges must improve student success rates, says Richard Kazis, senior vice president of Jobs for the Future and the author of the new report.
Community colleges, which serve more than a third of U.S. undergraduates, prepare students for fast-growing “middle-skill” jobs. But community colleges must change to raise low retention and completion rates. “We need more students to get degrees and certificates, and we need those credentials to be worth more to the students,” Kazis says.
The report’s recommendations include:
Improving student performance: States need to promote innovation so that more students complete programs that pay off in the economy. States need to collect —and use—better data about student progress and outcomes. They should change institutional and individual incentives to drive toward outcomes, not just enrollment. And they should work closely with both K-12 and workforce development systems to increase college readiness and align advising and support services.
Making the connection between education and economic development: Leaders should target local/regional industry sectors critical to economic growth and promote partnerships that align workforce needs with educational opportunities. They must also create innovative programs for working adults to help open up more employment possibilities for this critical population.
Thinking strategically: Public- and private-sector leaders must include postsecondary education as part of their planning for long-term competitiveness and economic sustainability, including making targeted investments. They need to explain to constituents the critical role these investments are going to play in the future economic security and quality of life for their regions.
The report praised innovative workforce development and education programs in Washington state, Ohio, Indiana, and Connecticut that tie higher education funding to outcomes. It also cited the Illinois’ Critical Skills Shortage Initiative and the Pennsylvania Industry Partnership—as examples of efforts to align postsecondary education and economic growth strategies.
Community colleges are helping revive rural economies by working with employers to provide job training, writes Community College Times.
Rural areas try to recruit new businesses looking for lower costs, but employers also look at the availability of qualified workers, access to workforce development programs and the quality of life, said Randy Smith, executive director of the Rural Community College Alliance, which is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges. “Community colleges are absolutely critical to economic development in rural areas,” Smith said.
In a rural area, the community college is much more than a center for education and training, Smith added. It also contributes to the quality of life by serving as “hubs for the arts, humanities and athletics,” he said.
In West Virginia, New River Community and Technical College (NRCTC) uses its Education and Technical Training Center to train students in the installation, maintenance, inspection, and removal of electric transmission and communication lines. Appalachian Electric Power (AEP), Frontier Communications, MASTEC, Suddenlink and Pike Electric provided equipment and expertise.
The program started in January with 16 students, including an 18-year-old high school graduate, a man with a degree in electronic engineering who was laid off from his job at an electronics factory, and a woman who was working two jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. A line service mechanic with 900 hours of training can earn $75,000 to $100,000 a year, according to Spring.
NRCTC is also using its new training center for programs in weatherization and energy analysis and a welding program in cooperation with Phillips Machine Service, a mining equipment company.
When the Greenbrier, a luxury resort nearby, opened a casino, NRCTC began training dealers for blackjack, roulette, craps and three-card poker.
As factories closed in Iowa, enrollment soared at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). Now jobs are coming back to the area — a new information technology calling center has created 1,300 jobs — but workers need more technical skills, said Penelope Wills, the college president.
. . . the college is adapting by creating new programs such as a training program for computerized numerical control machinist technicians. Twelve local employers joined together to help write the curriculum, which qualifies students for jobs in advanced manufacturing, Wills said.
An underground natural gas training program at NICC was developed in partnership with Black Hills Energy and Alliant Energy. About 65 percent of the employees in that industry are eligible to retire within five years, and “they needed us to develop that program,” Wills said.
This fall, NICC started a wind turbine program with 10 companies serving on a college advisory board.
Mississippi no longer tries to draw new companies with low labor costs, said Phil Sutphin, president of East Central Community College (ECCC) in Decatur. The goal now is to draw higher-paying jobs.
ECCC provides customized training in partnership with local companies and works closely with economic developers. “When a prospect comes to the area, we are at the table,” Sutphin said.
If KiOR Co., which converts biomaterials like scrub pine into gasoline, locates in the area, ECCC will create a biofuels training program.
With a federal WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) grant, the college has developed an M3 (modern multi-skill manufacturing) certificate program. The Walmart Foundation is funding a free evening class for dislocated or unemployed workers and out-of-school youths.
ECCC also is a social and cultural hub for its community.
“In rural areas, the community college is the only game in town,” Sutphin said.
Local residents come to the college for football games, the marching band, jazz band and its show and gospel choirs. The college cafeteria is also a popular spot for dining.
“The whole community comes to the cafeteria for the best Sunday dinner in town,” said Sutphin. A meal of fried chicken, rice and gravy, fried okra, salad and dessert costs $5.75.