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Community colleges strengthening career paths through federal program

Published: Wednesday, May 15 2013 7:10 p.m. MDT

The program thus creates incentives for colleges to offer credit for prior learning and provide competency-based education. Stackable credentials also fit well within the program. They offer a path for students to earn short-term certificates in as little as one semester and to add more advanced certificates later, building up to higher credentials while ducking in and out of school to work.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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The U.S. Department of Labor put $2 billion toward workforce development through community college programs in 2009, and the program appears to be working.

The federal grant money was meant to encourage two-year colleges to make ambitious changes, not merely back-fill depleted budgets. Schools in Massachusetts are using the money to create new or redesigned credentials aimed at unemployed or underemployed adults and to provide better college-career counseling, an Inside Higher Ed story said.

The state's community colleges have worked with businesses to create accelerated training in health care, manufacturing, IT, biotechnology, green energy and financial services.

Many of the grants went to a consortia of schools, though a few individual colleges received them as well. Last month, the Labor Department announced a third wave of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program.

"To land a grant, colleges need to make the case that they will quickly create career training paths for high-wage, high-skill jobs," the story said. "They are also encouraged to experiment with ways to speed up the time students need to spend earning a degree or credential."

The program thus creates incentives for colleges to offer credit for prior learning and provide competency-based education. Stackable credentials also fit well within the program. They offer a path for students to earn short-term certificates in as little as one semester and to add more advanced certificates later, building up to higher credentials while ducking in and out of school to work.

States that have created notable programs through the grant program include North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Illinois and several multi-state consortia, such as the National Stem Consortium, in which 10 community colleges working with industry partners in nine states are developing one-year certificates in high-demand science, technology, engineering and math fields.

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com

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