WASHINGTON – Any community college administrator worth his or her salt will tell you how they are addressing the so-called “skills gap” by dispensing with the fluff courses and getting down to brass tacks.
California’s community college system has been at the forefront of the renewed emphasis on skills training through its “stackable credentials” approach that focuses on courses that meet the immediate needs of potential employers.
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera highlights a similar effort called “Year Up” that focuses on matching up poor high school graduates with “middle-skill jobs.” Many of these entry-level jobs start at as much as $40,000 a year, Nocera reports.
These and other efforts across the country illustrate how community colleges have been bending over backwards to address the needs of American corporations. Now it’s time for companies, especially tech companies sitting on piles of cash, to put their money where their mouth has been. The first graduates of these community colleges programs are hitting the job market now.
The fact is that the “skills gap” is fast becoming little more than excuse not to hire new workers. If in fact still exists, U.S. companies must meet the community college system halfway by specifying the skill sets they are looking for.
In California, Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor for workforce development, told a recent conference that the California community college system is being geared toward delivering the skills companies need. In emerging markets like energy, course credentials include pre- and post-sales certificates for newly minted technical engineers and installers.
The nation’s indispensable community colleges are doing their part to address the skills gap. When will Corporate America begin hiring?
The "skills gap" is a myth. US corporations have long since stopped training employees internally to acquire new, needed skills to build up individuals' capability. As a result, actually undermining corporate strength.
The attitude has been just go hire someone with a specific, rigid skill set list. But if there's not an exact match for these skills, the typical (erroneous) corporate excuse is that it must be the fault of the educational system.
Limited loyalty to employees' careers and training ultimately weakens the very competitiveness that corporations are so fond of touting.
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The intent of many community college administrators is to at least try to hold corporations accountable by pressing them to work with them on revised curricula. There are companies like Dow Chemical who do more than pay lip service to skills training, but they are unfortunately the exception. The more pressure we put on companies to train and hire, the better the chances they will get off their pile of cash and start investing in the U.S. workforce.
In electrical engineering, the "skills gap" is actually an experience gap. Not long ago, I was investigating what it would take to acquire a System Verilog license and learn UVM on my own by doing projects. I was told by a recruiter (possibly the most clued in and straight forward recruiter I've ever met) that it "wouldn't matter unless I did the work for a company".
And that's in the chronically understaffed verification field. You can guess how much traction community college training is going to get in areas where the demand is less acute.
I'm also fairly convinced that the "skills gap" is just an excuse companies use to not hire. Even my employer seems to indulge in that, listing a bunch of seemingly phoney jobs, in places where I know darned well they aren' hiring. In fact, where they are downsizing.
It seems undeniable that one deterrent companies have is the taxation uncertainty in the next couple of years, at the very least. The more talk from government about how "everyone" will benefit from radically new policies, how costs will go down for "everyone," the more ridiculous it sounds to those who know full well that they will be footing the bill.
Not saying that community colleges are on the wrong track, though. Teaching people useful subject matter can only help in the longer term.
"Even my employer seems to indulge in that, listing a bunch of seemingly phoney jobs, in places where I know darned well they aren' hiring. In fact, where they are downsizing."
Most PUBLIC companies (have STOCK / Shareholders) will post a crap-load of positions that they never intend to fill, because it "LOOKS" much better to potential investors - to see 10 - 20 ... or 100 positions posted (as this "shows" growth ! .... as opposed to downsizing. Seriously, most "Business" topics on EEtimes... - you guys need to get out more ! ! (and no offense, to anyone here....., but) some people that comment - when you talk about "how things SHOULD BE or what WOULD be the RIGHT THING to do" ... What world do you live in ?
Anyone who has looked for an Engineering job in the past few years has surely noticed that there are many companies that have been running what I call perma-want-ad. In other words, they post openings for which they have little or no intention of hiring. I've been told that the opening was filled with someone with a better match to the skills required, yet the ad persists. So either they lied about the position being filled "just to be nice", they "thought" they had a candidate - one who backed out - or they never intended to hire. I suppose they are just trolling for people. Seems hardly "ethical", but I guess, "that's business".
Add to that, the pending layoffs from a local mega-DoD contractor and these other companies have no incentive to hire anyone already employed right now - just wait for the soon-to-be laid-off to appear on the market.
I would be interested in knowing how many 2 year students turn into 4 year students. Sure, many of them stop at 2 years and can be lab technicians etc., but does anyone have the numbers on how many in the science track transfer to four year institutions?
I doubt that many of them can just stop at 2 years (Associates Degree) and become technicians.
No offense to community colleges -- I know several bright young people who got good educations there. It's just that employers don't seem to put any value on that degree. As Duane said below, how many job postings do you see that require only a 2-year degree?
We'll try to find out how many two years students in the California system become four-year students. The "stackable credentials" approach is designed so that two-year students have the credentials to get a job that match their skills. A certain percentage most certainly continue in school.
I don't see a lot of offerings that specify a two year degree as a qualifying credential. That's too bad because it does seem like some of the two year programs can turn out highly skilled potential employees. It's not the same as a quality four year degree, but it can still provide a good skills set.
With so many experienced and credentialed developers looking for work, a quality two year degree likely won't even get you in the door, let alone hired.
since when has employer become responsible for hiring who-so-ever the community colleges graduated ? I dam yet to see any 'highly skilled' candidates coming out of community colleges in the valley, or should I said I have seen none ?
however, I have seen many young men/women using community colleges as springboard to public universities, and became 'skilled'. May be the Community colleges should simply reduce themselves to 'university prep-college' ? Or they should simply copy the Germany vocational school system and rid themselves the embarrassment of not knowing what to do ? if Germany is too far, the system in Canada is also a good source to copy from.
the community college systems, at least that in California, is a complete flop and waste of limited public education resources.
That's too bad. I consider my two years at MCC to be the best education I got. Yes, I was preparing for a university education so the material was general and probably wouldn't have helped much getting me employed if I had left for the workforce. But the professors were friendly, knowledgeable, accessible and spoke English; the class scheduling was flexible; and the cost was not out of control. I consider my two years there to be the foundation of my analytical thinking skills and the best deal I got.
And although the next stop bought me a ticket on the train I am currently riding, I can't speak so well of it. As such I'd love to see more relevance from CCs. Just think of the money students would save.
As for when corporate America will do their part...I just don't see it happening until MANY if not ALL of the job killing, economy stalling policies of the past three years are reversed, repealed or replaced. That especially includes the one most recently vindicated by turn-coat Roberts). Even then maybe waiting for corporate America isn't the answer. Maybe a ton of small business and start-ups need to emerge. But once again, for that to happen the same thing sited above needs to happen starting this November.
Yes, they can! A two years (Associates Degree) will make you become technicians. I work at one of the largest community colleges in Texas. As a matter of fact, many of the top colleges seek community college graduates because they not only have a skill, but are likely to graduate if they continue their education at a four year college. Why? Because a large percentage of students coming out of high school are not prepared for college. That is not a statement; that is a fact. Check the four year colleges report and you will notice that a large percentage of the students are enrolled in remedial education courses. Yes, community doing their part and more. Thanks for writing an article about community colleges.
Charles has it right. I got an AS from the local CC and worked as a technician for several years building up my cash reserves so I could take additional courses, etc.. The preponderance of my exposure to the majority of BS & MS educated EE's (from major Universities), was disappointing - especially when they asked very basic questions about biasing transistors and the basic configurations of said circuits.
The 2 years spent at the CC were intense, the courses concentrated and directed to understanding electronics, both in practice and theory. My experience has shown that the BS educated engineers get the most general education whilst the CC guys are much more focused. Any specific knowledge comes from the job, as each company has different needs and etc.
One can graduate with all the skills one wants. The next claim out of the mouths of HR is, "not enough experience." Apparently both are desired. "Skills gap" is a red herring. Or a "purple squirrel." :-)
The two-year degree SHOULD be enough for a lot of current positions. MANY positions posted that require a BSEE really do not. Fundamentally, they are not engineering jobs! Many companies appear to want to hire an engineer, and to have a degreed engineer in a particular slot, for a job that is semi-technical at best. Why? If an engineer were hired for that slot, they would leave ASAP for something that WAS engineering... This seems short-sighted at best, and purposefully mis-specified at worst...
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