Community Colleges for Workforce Preparation

Apparently some community colleges are trying to actually respond to the stated needs of the workforce. According to an editorial by Jeremiah Ryan in The Record:

New Jersey’s economic future depends on its ability to provide employers with an educated work force. In fact, one recent report noted that the six highest-growth jobs in the state require a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree.

New Jersey’s community colleges are working collaboratively on work-force development while managing recession-driven increases in enrollment for the past two years, including an overall statewide increase of about 12 percent last year, as students of all ages and their families turned to the affordable and accessible alternative of a quality community college education.

Ryan is the president of New Jersey’s Bergen Community College. Let’s hope the community colleges are working on something a little more substantial than just “working collaboratively.”

This comes after years of criticism of America’s community colleges. They’re cheap and they’re accessible, but their many conflicting missions make it hard for these schools to really appropriately address the needs of American businesses. As By Jamie Merisotis and Stan Jones put it in an article they wrote for the Monthly back in May:

Most colleges and universities, community colleges included, see themselves as academic institutions first and workforce-training centers second, and they structure their curricula accordingly. Even community college students headed for job-oriented degrees—in, say, landscape technology—must pass an array of general education courses in math, English, science, and the humanities. These courses are vitally important in providing students, especially recent high school graduates, with the critical thinking and communication skills they’ll need to succeed in today’s demanding economy. But they don’t necessarily make sense for the many recently unemployed adults who have already developed such skills during their years in the workplace.

Here’s hoping people like Ryan figure out a way to make workforce preparation work in community colleges. Until then, let’s see how “working collaboratively” works out.

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