Community Colleges and the Skilled Worker Shortage: Fact or Myth?

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Community Colleges and the Skilled Worker Shortage: Fact or Myth?
We look at concerns about the skilled worker shortage and alternative views about the problem. We’ll also explore how community colleges play a key role in building up the workforce, if a shortage does indeed exist.
The “skilled worker shortage” has become popular fodder for educators and business leaders alike. The perceived shortage has pushed for more partnerships between businesses and local community colleges and even more effective vocational programs at the high school level. However, some economists and other experts argue that the labor shortage is a myth, construed by educators and others who are interested in promoting their own interests by expanding the base of mid-level skills in the country. So is the skilled worker shortage a hard fact or mere myth? The answer may be much more complex than one might think.
 
Jobs Sitting Empty
 
One compelling argument in favor of the skilled worker shortage is the fact that many jobs at this level are sitting vacant today. Bloomberg Business Week reports that as many as 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States remain unfilled. Those numbers come from a recent report published by Manufacturing Institute.
 
According to the Business Review, New York alone could see a worker shortage of 350,000 by 2018, as the need for skilled employees in the technology sector continues to rise. The Society for Human Resource Management cites numbers from the McKinsey Global Institute that show the world could be short 40 million college-educated workers by 2020. Developed areas of North America and Europe alone could see a worker gap of up to 16-18 million workers by 2020.
 
While the numbers sound grand, individuals are urged to take a closer look at the data to determine precisely...
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 Low Standards Mean Higher Failure Rates at Community Colleges
We look at a recent study by the National Center on Education and the Economy that indicates standards are too low at community colleges today. That low bar results in a high failure rate in the job market.
Disturbingly low standards at community colleges nationwide translate to lower chances of success in the job market after college, a new study finds. Researchers discovered that although community college instructors appear to be lowering the bar for first-year students, many were unable to even meet the lower academic standards in math and literacy. This dismal picture suggests multiple layers of reform may be necessary to ensure students are ready for the professional workforce at graduation time.
 
Report Gauges College and Career Readiness
 
The new report, titled, “What does it Really Mean to be College and Work Ready?” was compiled by the National Center on Education and the Economy. The non-profit groups studies academic standards, instructional systems and assessment. Researchers looked at seven community colleges in seven states, looking at tests, textbooks and assignments given to first-year college students. Colleges were chosen at random and school size ranged from 3,000 to 30,000 students, according to Inside Higher Ed.
 
The study focused on popular career training programs offered by community colleges across the country, including accounting and business, automotive technology, criminal justice, early childhood education and information technology. Researchers focused on first-year students in these programs, and focus was placed on reading, writing and mathematics skills necessary to master these early college courses.
 
Lower Standards Still Not Met by Many Students
 
Researchers discovered that the bar set by college instructors in first-year courses was fairly low in terms of both reading and writing expectations. However, Education Week reports that many students are...
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Community Colleges Taking a Serious Look at MOOCs
We’ll report on the latest craze in higher education – the MOOC – and why community colleges are considering the addition of these online classes to their course lists.
Massive Open Online Courses, dubbed MOOCs by most educators, have become the buzzword for higher education. Providing free, online education on a global, rather than a campus, level has serious implications for the world of higher education overall. Despite the obvious benefits of MOOCs (free, readily available, etc.), many educators are skeptical of their actual value in the real college experience. How exactly did MOOCs make it on the scene and what does their future hold? The answers may depend on who you ask.
 
Anatomy of a MOOC
 
According to the Washington Post, a Massive Open Online Course is a college-level class offered for free online. The courses are available to anyone with an Internet connection, whether or not they are currently enrolled in a college or university. The classes allow students to study and learn on their own time, and at any location, unlike traditional courses that follow a set schedule in a classroom.
 
MOOCs have garnered interest from a number of institutions of higher education, particularly for-profit schools and newer startups in online education. Coursera, one of the best known companies offering MOOCs at this time, has partnered with institutions like Harvard and Stanford to bring the MOOC model to those prestigious college campuses. Other MOOC companies, including Udacity and edX are also busy signing up college partners for their online courses.
 
What’s Good
 
There are obvious benefits to MOOCs, at least on the surface of the concept. Free college classes could change the face of higher education in the...
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California Community Colleges Boost Summer Programs, Thanks to More Funding
After two dismal summers with few courses to choose from, California community colleges are back in action this summer with plenty of offerings for their students.
For a number of years, students at California community colleges have been unable to take advantage of the summer months to get ahead in their studies by taking a few extra classes. Budget cuts in recent years have forced many schools in the state to cut their summer offerings to a bare minimum, while a few have had to cut summer classes completely. Now, thanks to the passage of Prop 30, community colleges in the state are finding the money to beef up their summer course schedules, much to delight of students who were hoping to spend their summer months deep in their studies.
 
Survey Shows More Classes on the Way
 
The Los Angeles Times reports on an informal survey conducted by the office of statewide Chancellor Brice W. Harris, which involved 70 California community colleges. The survey indicated 67 percent of the community colleges in the state plan to increase their course offerings for the summer semester. Another 23 percent said they would offer about the same number of classes they had on the schedule during the previous summer. Only 7 percent of community colleges in the state stated they planned to reduce the number of courses they were going to offer this summer. 
 
Credit for the increases goes in large part to the passage of Proposition 30 last November, which granted a temporary increase in sales tax and income tax on the wealthiest residents in the state. The increase revenues are going directly to fund education, with...
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More Latinos are Heading to Community College, but Facing Challenges along the Way
At the same time Hispanic students are enrolling in college in record numbers, class shortages at California community colleges are impeding their progress into higher education and the skilled workforce.
The good news is that more Latinos are headed to college today, whether they set their sights on a two-year or four-year institution. The bad news is that despite their lofty goals, many Latinos won’t make it to college completion. In fact, some may face serious obstacles just getting their foot in the door of higher education. With the Hispanic population increasing across the county, it may be up to community colleges to change the tide and provide the necessary training so this growing population can reach their full earning potential.
 
First, the Good News
 
NBC Latino reports that a record number of Latino students are heading to college today. According to a recent analysis from the Pew Hispanic Research Center, seven out of every 10 Latino high school students enrolled in college in 2012. That number is higher than the rate of both white and black high school students. The dropout rate for Latino students was also cut in half – from 28 percent in 2000, to 14 percent in 2011.
 
There are a number of possible factors that could be attributed to the increase, according to the researchers that conducted the analysis. First, Latino students may be finding that heading off for more education is more productive than searching for employment in a somewhat dismal job market. Another reason could be the increasing importance the Latino community is giving to higher education overall.
 
“The wider Latino community understands the importance of education for the future of education when it comes...
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