A majority of two-year and four-year college graduates would choose a different major or school or both, if they had a second chance, reports Voice of the Graduate, a McKinsey survey of recent graduates. Health majors were the most satisfied with their choice. Students who had majored in visual and performing arts, language, literature, and the social sciences were the least satisfied.
Forty percent of two-year graduates and 30 percent of four-year graduates said they were unprepared for the workforce. One third of community college graduates said their quantitative reasoning skills were inadequate.
Nearly half of four-year graduates were in jobs that did not require a four-year degree, notes Gadfly’s Amber Winkler. Many ended up in retail and restaurant work. However, most science and engineering graduates found professional work.
Liberal-arts graduates of four-year colleges . . . tend to be lower paid, less likely to be employed full time, and less prepared for the workplace.
Fifty-one percent of underemployed young Americans wish they’d chosen a different educational path, according to Underemployed in America, a survey by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The survey included people 21 to 35 years old. Sixty percent with only a high school diploma, 53 percent with an associate degree and 48 percent with a bachelor’s degree regret their choices.
Employers said job seekers should acquire a broad education providing a “diverse knowledge base.” The underemployed said it’s better to learn specific job skills.
The underemployed overestimate their skills – especially writing and problem solving – and problem-solving skills – compared with employers’ views.
Both groups believe for-profit colleges and trade schools do about as well in preparing students for the workforce as four-year public or private nonprofit colleges and universities. However, both have less faith in community colleges.
With the help of Labor Department grants, community colleges are accelerating job training programs aimed at adults and “stacking” workforce credentials, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Working with employers, Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges have accelerated training for jobs in health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology, biotechnology, green energy and financial services.
In addition to prior-learning assessment and competency-based education, colleges are creating stackable credentials. Students can earn a short-term certificate, find a job and return later to add a higher credential.
For advanced manufacturing, the final product was a pyramid of competencies employees should ideally master to work at various job levels. The colleges worked with manufacturers statewide to develop those standards.
For example, in the precision machining field, entry-level jobs like assemblers or warehouse workers should have skills in five major areas: shop math, blueprint reading, metrology, problem solving and workplace readiness. But further up the pyramid, supervisors and managers should hold certificates and degrees in manufacturing technology, as well as more learned skills, such as programming, and a minimum number of hours working in the industry.
Stacking also works well for health-care credentials, said Ana Sanchez, the “career and college navigator” at Springfield Technical Community College. “Everybody wants to be a nurse,” but not everyone has the math and science skills needed. In one or two semesters, students can earn a certificate as a patient care technician or medical admin. It can be a quick route to the workforce and, for some, the first step on the path to a nursing degree.
Unless California helps low-income parents learn basic skills, train for jobs and pursue higher education, the state’s prosperity is at risk, concludes Working Hard, Left Behind. The Campaign for College Opportunity, the Women’s Foundation of California and Working Poor Families project collaborated on the report.
California leads the nation in low-income working adults and in poorly educated adults. More than 1 out of 10 adults over 24 years of age have less than a ninth-grade education; nearly 1 in 5 adults didn’t complete high school.
The state will be 2.3 million vocational certificate, two-year and four-year degree graduates short of meeting the needs of the state economy by 2025, the report estimates.
“This is an alarming gap,” said Michele Siqueiros, the campaign’s executive director. “On one hand, we have millions of hard-working, low-income adults who have limited chances of upward mobility because of obstacles to higher education access and completion. On the other hand, thousands of companies are seeking well-skilled and highly trained workers.”
California needs to create a “public agenda for higher education that sets clear goals for preparing high school students for college, transitioning adult students into postsecondary education and the workforce, increasing the number of certificate and degree completions, while monitoring progress toward those goals, and aligning policies and budgets needed to reach them,” the report recommends.
It calls for improving coordination between high schools, adult education, community colleges and four-year universities and tracking low-income students’ progress as they move from one education system to another.
Non-traditional students need better access to financial aid and access to counseling and child care, Working Hard, Left Behind concludes. In 2009-10, only a third of the state’s community college students applied for a Pell Grant, leaving an estimated $500 million in aid unclaimed.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to community colleges to take over adult education, but his plan is on hold in the Legislature, reports EdSource. Currently, K-12 districts spend less than $300 million on adult schools, down from $634 million before the recession. Courses include literacy, English as a Second Language, citizenship, parenting, vocational education and GED and high school diploma courses. Brown proposes $300 million in state funding for adult ed at community colleges.
Discouraged by long-term unemployment, more Americans are dropping out of the workforce, at least for awhile, reports AP. Some are taking early retirement or applying for disability benefits. Others are enrolling in community college — or graduate school — in hopes of returning to the job market with stronger skills.
. . . the number of Americans in the labor force — those who have a job or are looking for one — fell by nearly half a million people from February to March, the government said Friday. And the percentage of working-age adults in the labor force — what’s called the participation rate — fell to 63.3 percent last month. It’s the lowest such figure since May 1979.
The unemployment rate dropped to a four-year low of 7.6 percent in March from 7.7 in February, but only because people who’ve stopped looking for a job aren’t counted as unemployed. The unemployment rate would have risen to 7.9 percent in March if 496,000 workers hadn’t given up their job search.
Even Americans of prime working age — 25 to 54 years old — are dropping out of the workforce. Their participation rate fell to 81.1 percent last month, tied with November for the lowest since December 1984.
. . .Young people are leaving the job market, too. The participation rate for Americans ages 20 to 24 hit a 41-year low 69.6 percent last year before bouncing back a bit. Many young people have enrolled in community colleges and universities. That’s one reason a record 63 percent of adults ages 25 to 29 have spent at least some time in college, according to the Pew Research Center.
Doug Damato, 40, who lives in Asheville, N.C., lost his job as an installer at a utility company in February 2012. That fall, he began studying mechanical engineering at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. When his unemployment benefits run out in July, he hopes to find a night job so he can complete his degree.
India plans to open 200 community colleges in the next few years, reports Community College Times. U.S. college leaders participated in a New Delhi conference on community and technical college models from Canada, Britain, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the United States.
The U.S. delegation, representing a dozen community colleges, was led by Tara Sonenshine, under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs.
Sonenshine told conference attendees that community colleges can be a crucial resource in educating India’s “youth bulge”—the nation has 600 million people under age 25—for meaningful jobs in a nation with a shortage of skilled workers.
The new colleges will offer “credit-based modular courses to facilitate mobility of learners into the employment market,” the Times of India reported.
Leaders from the Coleman College for Health Sciences in the Houston Community College System and Grossmont College (California) discussed training students for health careers. Kapi‘olani Community College (Hawaii) and Tidewater Community College (Virginia) leaders spoke about hospitality training and officials from Macomb Community College (Michigan) and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System gave presentations on their automotive training.
A Republican bill to streamline federal job training programs passed the House last week, but the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act faces strong opposition from congressional Democrats and the Obama administration. Both complain the bill doesn’t guarantee that low-income people are first in line for job training.
House GOP leaders promoted the SKILLS Act, which would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), in a visit to the automotive skills training program at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), reports Community College Times.
The SKILLS Act would eliminate or streamline 35 “ineffective and duplicative programs,” according to GOP leaders, and create a flexible WIA fund to serve as a single source of support for workers, employers and job seekers. Democrats, however, are concerned that would mean less funding for job training at a time when more is needed.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), a former president of Mayland Community College in North Carolina, said the SKILLS Act would “unravel the complicated mess” that the American workforce development system has become and streamline it.
Noting that the nation is spending $18 billion on these programs, Fox said the SKILLS Act can achieve better results with less money. Providing more control at the local level is “extraordinarily important,” she said, because “the suits in Washington” don’t understand local needs.
Only 14 percent of would-be workers receive the job training they need, said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce and a co-sponsor. People get “lost in the maze,” he said. “Our bill empowers community colleges to get people the skills they need to go to work,” he said.
Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), formerly an executive at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, said the SKILLS Act would let local workforce investment boards (WIBs) funnel more funding to “priority providers,” such as community colleges. Local boards could contract with community colleges to provide training to large groups of participants rather than funding individual job seekers.
The American Association of Community Colleges supports greater flexibility, but is concerned about some provisions, wrote President Walter Bumphus in a letter to Kline and Foxx. The letter was co-signed by the Association for Community College Trustees. Both groups called for prioritizing training for low-income people.
“College for all” has become a curse, writes linguist John McWhorter in the New York Daily News. Young people are told the only way to a middle class life is a four-year degree, but vocational training also can lead to the American Dream, he writes.
There is nothing ignoble about finishing high school, spending a year learning how to fix heaters and air conditioners and going off to ply a trade and make a good living (i.e.. the one we know plumbers make when we pay their fees).
. . . Did the guy who installed your cable-TV service have a college degree? How many sound technicians, mechanics or building inspectors spent four years on a college campus? How about the person who did your ultrasound?
Complaining of a maze of federally funded job training programs, House Republicans have introduced the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act to consolidate 35 federal employment and training programs into a single $6 billion Workforce Investment Fund.
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.
China has quadrupled the number of community college and university graduates in the last decade, but many are unemployed or underemployed because they refuse to take low-status factory jobs, reports the New York Times. In the U.S., employment rises with education. In Chinese cities, young college graduates are four times as likely to be unemployed as those with an elementary education, according to a survey by a Chinese university.
In Guangzhou, “factories make everything from T-shirts and shoes to auto parts, tablet computers and solar panels,” reports the Times. Wages, benefits and living conditions have improved dramatically, but many factories are “desperate for workers.”
Wang Zengsong is desperate for a steady job. He has been unemployed for most of the three years since he graduated from a community college here after growing up on a rice farm. Mr. Wang, 25, has worked only several months at a time in low-paying jobs, once as a shopping mall guard, another time as a restaurant waiter and most recently as an office building security guard.
But he will not consider applying for a full-time factory job because Mr. Wang, as a college graduate, thinks that is beneath him. Instead, he searches every day for an office job, which would initially pay as little as a third of factory wages.
The one-child policy means many young graduates can count on the support of their two parents and four grandparents.
As in the U.S., factories in China are having trouble finding workers who can operate and maintain complex equipment. Yet vocational students are outnumberedctwo to one by students in academic classes.
Community colleges’ mix of job training and academic education creates good citizens, says Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in an interview with Community College Journal excerpted in Community College Times.
. . . ours is a society based on work. Those who are not equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to get, and keep, good jobs are denied the genuine social inclusion that is the real test of full citizenship. Those denied the education required for good jobs tend to drop out of the mainstream culture, polity and economy. . . . If community college educators cannot fulfill their economic mission to help youths and adults become successful workers, they also will fail in their cultural and political missions to create good neighbors, good citizens and self-possessed individuals who can live fully in their time.
Almost a third of new job openings between 2010 and 2020 will require middle skills — more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree — Carnevale predicts. Some of these jobs pay middle-class wages: 62 percent of middle-skill jobs pay $35,000 or more per year, his research has found. Thirty-one percent of entry-level associate-degree jobs and 27 percent of jobs requiring licensure or certification pay more than entry-level BA positions.
“Before the 1980s, employers provided entry-level training to the vast majority of middle-skill workers, largely in blue-collar occupations,” Carnevale says. Now community colleges help young people “get through the door to jobs that pay.”
There is a “missing middle” between high school and four-year college, says Carnevale.
Perhaps because employers did the entry-level training for so long in the United States, the American education system has been built around the four-year bachelor’s degree. For institutional and cultural reasons, the “college is a BA” mantra continues. Students march in lockstep into four-year institutions, many without any clue of how they will attach to the labor market at the end of their four to six years. This blind homage paid to the prestigious BA job is largely responsible for the difficulty in recruiting and training workers, along with the lack of information about how viable and upwardly mobile middle-skill jobs can be.
In spite of high unemployment, “2 million jobs persistently go unfilled for want of skilled workers,” says Carnevale.