Community colleges are widely recognized for their distinct position within the postsecondary education system; two-year colleges offer accessible options for certificate and degree attainment to a diverse population. As the economy continues to recover, many employers embrace high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) and training opportunities that community colleges provide for a relatively low cost. Meanwhile, community college leaders struggle to meet employers’ rising expectations with stagnant or decreasing community college budgets.
A new report from the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama analyzes survey results from 49 state-level community college leaders, and examines the role of community colleges in developing the workforce.
The authors specify that community colleges are different than many other postsecondary institutions because they are “place-based” – that is, their service delivery areas are determined by law. This causes community colleges to be especially committed to developing their state and local economies, and makes partnerships with business and industry critical. Partnerships with employers are common – 92 percent of those surveyed said that employers are increasingly leaning on community colleges to train their employees –- but one-third of respondents reported that training funds, such as those from the Workforce Investment Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, are decreasing or have been depleted.
Further, over 60 percent of respondents said they are pressured by businesses to offer more short-term job training programs in non-credit areas. Though short-term certificates can be valuable, research shows that longer-term certificates and training programs are more lucrative for students. Moreover, the many job vacancies currently contributing to the “skills gap” would require applicants to have advanced training in highly-skilled areas. The authors note that an investment in these long-term education and training opportunities will be beneficial to both students and employers. They also suggest continued funding of Pell Grants at the current level.
Read the full report here.
Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst