Community Colleges and the Training Part of Education

The goals for higher education and the goals for workforce training—while theoretically complementary (“more college-educated workers will improve the economy”)—are often troublesome on the ground. Last week, for instance, a publication of the American Federation of Teachers complained that the goal of sending everyone to college essentially prepared low-achieving students for failure; they just didn’t get the jobs training that might have served them very well after high school.

There’s some indication that the White House at least is listening. According to an article by Catherine Rampell in the New York Times:

President Obama plans to announce a new national public-private partnership on Monday to help retrain workers for jobs that are in demand. The… program is a response to frustrations from both workers and employers who complain that public retraining programs frequently do not provide students with employable skills. This new initiative is intended to help better align community college curriculums with the demands of local companies.

“The goal is to encourage community colleges and other training providers to work in close partnership with employers, to design a curriculum where they want to hire the people coming out of these programs right away,” said Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

The nonprofit Aspen Institute will run the program, in partnership with a diverse, if small, array of American companies: Gap Inc., Accenture, United Technologies, P.G.& E. and McDonald’s.

The idea, apparently, is for large companies like these to help influence the curricula at community colleges so that community college graduates are prepared for available jobs. Currently, that’s not at which community colleges are really so good.

Note that the White House summit on community colleges occurs today. Let’s see what role this workforce has in the summit.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer