Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Community Colleges' Growing Role in Helping People Get High Skilled Jobs

With all the talk about needed 21st century job skills, who is on cutting edge of helping people get them - and doing it in a cost effective way? Community colleges. If the idea of community college does not fire you up, consider your opinion outdated (and elitist) as the cost of 4 year colleges skyrocket and financial aid programs tighten. Consider these statistics from the American Association of Community Colleges:
  • Health care: 59% of new nurses and the majority of other new health-care workers are educated at community colleges.
  • Homeland security: Close to 80% of firefighters, law enforcement officers, and EMTs are credentialed at community colleges.
  • Average Annual Tuition and Fees:
    Community colleges (public): $2,361
    4-year colleges (public): $6,185
  • Nearly 12 million students (half of all U.S. undergraduates) attend community colleges.

Ben Bernanke, chief of the Federal Reserve who plays perhaps the biggest role in managing the U.S. economy, observed in a November 2007 speech in North Carolina:
"...improving the skills of local workers--especially those displaced by industries in decline--remains critical for both urban and rural areas in the state. Four-year institutions play an important role in meeting that challenge, but they are not the sole means for developing workforce skills. For example, in the 2004-05 school year, the North Carolina Community College System served nearly 780,000 students in fifty-eight institutions. The average community college student in the state is thirty years old and likely working while attending school (North Carolina Community College System, 2006). Because they offer education closely tailored to employer demands in the local workplace, community colleges in North Carolina, as elsewhere, play an essential role in training and retraining workers. Moreover, they do so at a relatively low cost. In general, we must move beyond the view that education is something that takes place only in K-through-12 schools and four-year colleges, as important as those are. Education and skills must be provided flexibly and to people of any age." [emphasis added]
The Career Key's author, Dr. Lawrence K. Jones, was the first person in his family to go to college and he began his education path at a community college; as you talk to people, their connections to these colleges appear. Consider how you can build new job skills using this resource. We offer tips on how to find the right college.

If you're worried about prestige, an Ivy League degree certainly helps but for the vast majority of people, their networking, informational interviewing, and acquired job skills get them the best job, not the name on the diploma. If you don't believe me, just talk to the people you consider successful.

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