As the United States approaches its fourth year of economic confusion, economists are still undecided as to whether or not the nation will slip back into recession. With the national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, feelings of uncertainty are saturated within the American public.
Even with the current air of insecurity about America’s future, there are signs of hope in the persistent job openings for highly-skilled workers. As technology develops, the skill level needed for specialized positions can prop up many industries.
To prepare the American population for in-demand jobs, community colleges are a vital factor in economic development. Two-year programs can prepare students for specialized jobs and partner with employers that are hiring to create programs designed to train specifically for new openings.
Community colleges can be flexible to the needs of employers by focusing on preparing students and teaching them the skills that are relevant to certain specialized and highly-skilled positions. During the slow economic recovery, two-year institutions have seen increased enrollment as people are studying in programs that will retrain them to meet the demands of employers.
A 2010 Federal Reserve report indicated that about one-third of students enrolled in post-secondary institutions were attending two-year colleges. Not only do community colleges prove to be important in retraining the workforce, but they also contribute significantly to the education industry in the US.
The importance of community colleges in the US economic recovery isn’t lost on the government. In October 2010, President Obama announced the Skills for America’s Future initiative, which encouraged public-private partnerships to create new retraining programs at two-year colleges.
The initiative aimed to increase the number of employers that partner with community colleges and create a stronger curriculum in order to match the skills needed for specialized jobs.
In the American Jobs Act proposal, delivered to Congress in September 2011, President Obama called for $5 billion to be spent on modernizing community colleges across the nation. If passed, the legislation would allow for upgrades to education facilities in order to better meet the demands of the 21st century workforce.
Sectors of the workforce that continue to be in demand for skilled workers include health care and manufacturing. Both of these areas continue to grow and require highly-trained workers to perform the new jobs.
According to the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill jobs make up the largest segment of the US workforce. Middle-skill positions are defined as those that require more than a high-school education but less than a four-year degree.
As the demand for skilled workers increases as the US emerges from the Great Recession, there may be a transformation in the ideals of the education system. No longer will high school students be pressured to enroll in a four-year university so they can figure out what they want to do with their lives.
There are plenty of highly-educated individuals out there with bachelor’s degrees working part-time or collecting unemployment. The future of the American workforce may be in the two-year programs designed to train students specifically for jobs in demand. Lower cost of education, higher return of employment; this may be the deciding factor in pulling America out of its economic slump once and for all.
Evercloud, Debbie. “Community colleges assist in economic recovery” ourColoradonews.com http://www.ourcoloradonews.com/business/growth/community-colleges-assist-in-economic-recovery/article_ae4b39a4-de80-11e0-9d0c-001cc4c002e0.html
Smith, Diane. “Jobs plan would modernize community colleges” Star-Telegram http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/09/21/3386717/jobs-plan-would-modernize-community.html
Spencer, Katie. “Community colleges work to fill huge demand for ‘middle-skill’ workers” MEDILL REPORTS CHICAGO http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=181511