Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Community colleges to the rescue?

Where do political candidates go to make statements about jobs and the workforce? The answer is a community college. That is were you will find George Bush and Hillary Clinton and others that want to shine a positive light on employment issues. Why? Because everybody likes community colleges. They are good, trusted institutions. They resonate with our sense of fairness and represent the notion that anyone can get ahead if they just try hard enough.

These days community colleges are the presumptive educators of people that are trying to get to the middle class. With resources that dwarf any other public training and employment program, the community colleges have in many ways become our national workforce system. And they continue to broaden their scope.

In a new study from the Community College Research Center, lead author Michelle Van Noy reports widespread expansion of noncredit offerings, including basic skills, industry certifications, and trainings for particular businesses. http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=609 The findings, however, raise "fundamental questions about whether colleges are keeping pace with student and workforce needs, using resources efficiently, and providing access to all students."

Noncredit workforce education is a brave new world that is largely unregulated. As colleges seek to generate revenue from noncredit offerings, local and state funding will be asking for more structured outcomes for meeting the needs of students and employers. Can the colleges make changes and organize themselves to heft this mantle of responsibility?


Josh said...

While it is excellent that community colleges have stepped up to an extent to fill this void I strongly believe that the federal government should take responsibility on some level. Relatively minor investments (when compared to defense) in education, green job training and workforce readiness could go a really long way in the current economy.

Bob Giloth said...

My worry about community colleges and non-credit courses is twofold -- their uneven quality and that the payoffs of some college seem to relate to certification or degrees. We need to work more to make sure that short-term courses articulate with the credit side. For example, more building-trades apprenticeships should earn community college credit