Will the Failing Auto Industry Drive Up Community College Enrollment Rates?

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Will the Failing Auto Industry Drive Up Community College Enrollment Rates?
Learn about how the failure of the American auto industry, along with President Obama's education initiatives, will translate into increased enrollment in community college campuses.
While the United States has more than six million students enrolled at 1,000 community college campuses nationwide, only half a million students graduate from these institutions each year. According to President Obama, this low graduation rate must change in order for our country to prepare for a stronger and more fertile economy.
 
In specifically examining the troubling economic setbacks experienced by residents of Michigan, Obama asserts that many unemployed auto workers must actively pursue community college programs to gain new education and training for the future job openings that will arise. In light of PresidentObama's direct visit with Michigan's current and former auto workers, many residents are wondering if the failure of their auto industry will ultimately help drive up their community college enrollment rates.
 
The impact of Michigan's auto industry on community colleges.
 
As Yahoo News reports, President Obama's mid-July visit to Detroit was intended to help the city and surrounding areas face their current economic challenges with new vigor. Considering that Ford, GM, and Chrysler are all based out of Michigan, their recent financial struggles have contributed to a waterfall of job losses and salary cuts statewide.

During his visit, President Obama sympathized with residents while simultaneously attempted to boost morale with his $12 billion dollar proposal. With this proposal, President Obama hopes to increase the enrollment rates at community colleges, both in Michigan and across the country, to eventually create a more qualified workforce.

In looking forward to the economic perks of education, President Obama reminded Michigan residents, “'(The) hard truth is that some of the jobs that have been lost in the auto industry and elsewhere won't be coming back... And that only underscores the importance of generating new businesses and industries to replace the ones we've lost, and of preparing our workers to fill the jobs they create.'” As the country's needs and requirements shift with the tides of the economy, President Obama is focused on improving access to education in order to prepare workers for the unavoidable professional shifts that lie ahead.

Unfortunately, mostly due to the dwindling auto industry, leaders acknowledge that Michigan will undoubtedly struggle to rebound from the horrific effects of the recession in their area. Adding to this, the jobless rate in Michigan is projected to get worse before it begins to improve. Yet, although there are struggles ahead, President Obama also reminded Michigan residents that the government bailout of the big three auto companies helped to save the local economy from a much more disastrous financial fate.

This video offers an example of where the auto workers' jobs are headed.

Community Colleges and the 10-year Plan

As education is the main component of Obama's economic recovery initiative, the President has outlined a 10-year plan that will help turn around the nation's economy. Using the pillar of education, Obama hopes to increase the current college graduation rate by 5 million people over the course of the decade. If this goal is achieved, the country will experience a doubling of its current graduate numbers.
 
Supporting this agenda, the President's Council of Economic Advisers reiterates that with the evolution of new jobs created over the course of time, the future job market will demand well-trained and highly skilled workers. As the Council further states, “'Occupations requiring higher educational attainment are projected to grow much faster than those with lower education requirements, with the fastest growth among occupations that require an associate's degree or a postsecondary vocational award.'” Subsequently, those with access to educational and training venues, especially through community colleges, will be prepared to obtain more secure and higher-paying jobs.
 
This video from WQED in Pittsburgh reports on the "whole new set of skills is needed for a career in this new economy." 
 
 
Community Colleges Across the Country: How the Auto Industry Will Impact Your Campus

While Michigan was certainly a main state of focus during  President Obama's summer speeches, community college campuses across the country are anticipating a surge in enrollment rates. Essentially, to understand the nationwide impact of the auto collapse, one must foremost consider what happens to Michigan residents facing unemployment. In many cases, laid-off workers quickly move out of state, resulting in population growth in other states. As local population rates rise, college admission rates are expected to similarly rise.

Additionally, as the President is proposing to offer further community college support plans, including free or reduced tuition for unemployed/laid-off workers, experts predict that the community college classrooms in all states should continue to fill with a rising number of students.

How the auto industry has impacted community college curricula

Industry observers would seem to concur with President Obama's concern about the training of workers in the auto industry. Jeff Weber writes in Wards Auto that "Filling manufacturing jobs, especially in the automotive industry, is quickly becoming a crisis. A recent report from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that the U.S. will create 3.5 million manufacturing jobs during the next decade, but some 2 million of those will remain unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates." With the auto industry rapidly moving toward building mostly electric-powered vehicles of every model, you can see how Jeff Weber's statement impacts community college auto industry courses.

Community colleges are rising to the challenges involved with training workers for jobs in what is now styled as automotive technology. Here's an example from Massachusetts Bay Community College. You can see how comprehensive their approach is. "Automotive technicians today need cutting-edge skills to keep pace with the advancing needs of the industry. In partnership with BMW, General Motors, Jeep/Chrysler, and Toyota/Lexus, programs within MassBay's Automotive Technology Academy offer hands-on training taught by our ASE Master-certified faculty on state-of-the-art equipment and vehicles at our Automotive Technology Center in Ashland."

This video offers an overview of the automotive technology program at Massachusetts Bay Community Colleges.

As the auto industry undergoes massive changes, our community colleges will help supply the skilled workers necessary to execute those changes. This in turn will have a positive effect on college enrollments after the pandemic eases.

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