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Community College Data Collection Aims to Boost Employment

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Thursday, December 10, 2020   

RICHMOND, Va. -- With unemployment at record highs during the pandemic, community colleges are supplying data to help folks get new skills for employment.

The Opportunity America survey on workforce development represents the first-ever attempt to compile a list of noncredit training options across the nation.

Steve Partridge, vice president for strategic partnerships and workforce innovation for Northern Virginia Community College, which is participating in the survey, said the results will be essential to the economic recovery since most folks want to get back to work quickly and be sure training will help them get the jobs they're after.

"It hopefully will get some of that data to see and compare the types of training," Partridge explained. "So if I have an IT class in my market, I can compare that to other markets to see, are we all doing somewhat the same way of training or is it really just totally different?"

He added more than 1,000 institutions across the nation will contribute to the survey.

In Virginia, community colleges offer numerous courses which can lead to jobs in health care and IT, two of the fastest-growing industries in the state.

Tamar Jacoby, president of Opportunity America, which is co-sponsoring the survey along with national education groups and government agencies, said she hopes state lawmakers will use the data to fund more career education programs in their budgets.

"If you don't know that the colleges in your state are capable of doing a great job of preparing a lot more people to go back to work, you're not going to get them the funding," Jacoby contended. "But if we can give you that information that could generate funding for more of these kinds of programs, it would help learners, it would help the college, and it would help the businesses that need a new kind of worker."

She noted the survey is also to gauge what she calls a "revolution," in which schools are working more closely with employers so they can target skills development that can lead directly to work instead of having students take more classes that aren't job-specific.


Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.


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