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A Primer for Addressing Workforce Needs

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March 21st, 2011
By Dan O’Connell, President and CEO, Massachusetts Competitiveness Partnership

I had the honor of attending the Business-Higher Education Forum’s (BHEF) recent semi-annual meeting at the invitation of BHEF Chair and Raytheon Company Chairman and CEO William H. Swanson. It was a fascinating gathering of CEOs, prominent college and university presidents, and other leaders, who emphasized that the demands of the global economy have fundamentally transformed corporations and increased the competitive challenges facing U.S. businesses, the economy, and the workforce.

Yet Americans remain largely complacent to the shifted economic landscape and the skills required for the new economy.  Many continue to believe that our schools and skills are world-class and that the next generation’s career prospects are bright. This mindset stands in stark contrast to reality, as relatively few students are adequately prepared for college and the workplace, and even fewer are interested in high-demand fields that fuel the innovation economy.

I currently serve as president and CEO of the Massachusetts Competitiveness Partnership (MACP), a group of chief executives from some of the biggest companies in Massachusetts, including Swanson. We are working with state political leaders on ways to spur job development, as we believe the business community can add tremendous value to policymaking decisions.

In order to make the Massachusetts economy more competitive, we are pursuing education reforms at community colleges in the state.  Our group is committed to working with state officials, educators, and businesses to develop more career-oriented curricula that target industries with the highest demands, such as healthcare, biotech and information technology.

As part of our work with community colleges, I reached out to BHEF staff to collect a list of relevant articles and reports on the subject of alignment between community colleges and the workforce, to serve as an introductory primer for business leaders. Also, I wonder: What other resources should we add to the list?

Challenges and Opportunities for Improving Community College Student Success, by Sara Goldrick-Rab
This academic article offers a nice typology with which to understand community colleges, especially how they function and challenges to “success.”  It also identifies many of the efforts being undertaken to improve college success at community colleges.
(no link)

A Sharper Focus On Technical Workers: How to Educate and Train for the Global Economy
From the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, a case study of the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC) partnership between community colleges, industry, and the governor to develop the necessary workforce for the region. http://www.nga.org/Files/pdf/1007TECHNICALWORKERS.PDF

Community College 2.0
This short piece offers suggestions for how community colleges can better address workforce needs.


Transforming America’s Community Colleges: A Federal Policy Proposal to Expand Opportunity and Promote Economic Prosperity
A 2009 Brookings report that suggests increased Federal involvement in order to transform community colleges and meet workforce demand. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0507_community_college_goldrick
_rab/0507_community_college_full_report.pdf


A Matter of Degrees: Tomorrow’s Fastest- Growing Jobs and Why Community College Graduates Will Get Them
This piece makes the case for why a focus on community colleges is important, linking community colleges to workforce needs. Offers several recommendations at the end to improve focus on community colleges.
http://www.dlc.org/documents/DLC_HotJobs.pdf

Transition Matters: Community College to Bachelor’s Degree
A piece on alignment between 2 year and four year institutions, from the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.
http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/acsfa/transmattfullrpt.pdf

Open Door to What?
An opinion piece that asks the reader to consider whether the workforce is structured in such a way that community colleges can best address its needs. http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/05/25/slaton

Taking the Long View
Article on a community college in western Massachusetts that is encouraging its engineering students to think long-term and consider transferring onward in order to boost their career prospects over the long run.


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