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Community Colleges Pool Knowledge to Get People Back to Work

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Monday, December 7, 2020   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- With more than 12 million Americans unemployed, community colleges and technical schools are collaborating to help people retrain for new jobs.

About 1,100 institutions nationwide are contributing to the Opportunity America survey on workforce development. California Community College System Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said "upskilling" will be crucial to an equitable recovery from the pandemic.

"It isn't high-wage-earning, white-collar workers that have been impacted. It is blue-collar, front-line vulnerable workers at the lowest level that have been hit the hardest," Oakley said. "And these are individuals that community colleges have the greatest access to."

Ajita Menon is president of Calbright College, a state-run online community college. She said the survey results will promote best practices.

"It's a real tool for planning and innovation that we can share and understand and learn from what other institutions are doing," Menon said.

Colleges are being asked to complete the survey this month. Tamar Jacoby, president of the nonprofit Opportunity America, said she hopes the data will convince state lawmakers to allocate more for career education.

"The problem is, you have millions of Americans wanting these short, job-focused programs that the colleges are well positioned to provide, but in many states there's no way to pay," Jacoby said. "You can't use your Pell grant to pay for them. Most states do not fund them."

Salvatrice Cummo, executive director for economic and workforce development with Pasadena Community College, advises people looking for work to consider short-term community college courses that can lead directly to jobs in such hot industries as healthcare and computer science.

"Sit with the counselor and take a look at the programs that best fit your desires and interests and career path," Cummo said. "And have them share with you, what are the growth occupations?"

Cummo noted many of California's 116 community colleges now offer competency-based credentials that are designed to funnel graduates into fields that are in demand.


Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.




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