Graduating from a community college is a great way to improve your career, but it has a bigger impact too. The more people graduate from community colleges, the better the economy does.
This means that declining community college enrollments across the country could be a serious economic issue. According to the Hechinger Report:
“That’s a big problem for employers who need to fill jobs made even more essential by the pandemic, and in fields where there are already shortages. These include health care, cybersecurity, information technology, construction, manufacturing, transportation, law enforcement and utilities.
‘Not having people engaged in community and technical colleges means we’re taking the fuel out of the engine,’ said Stephen Pruitt, president of the 16-state Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB.”
Even as enrollment in community colleges is going down, the need for people with the skills community colleges can provide is increasing, according to Jan Yoshiwara, executive director of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
Mobilizing more people to get into community colleges and helping them up the career ladder is one of the single best things we can do for the economy — and for California.
Location Still Matters
Matt Sigleman, president of Burning Glass, a labor market analytics firm, told The Hechinger Report that it’s not just “an” economy that’s at risk: it’s 50 different state economies.
“In a 21st-century knowledge economy, jobs follow talent much more than they follow labor costs. So if it turns out there’s a critical talent pool that there’s just not enough of, that can drive a company, and ultimately a whole sector, to look at new locations where there’s a more robust supply,” he said.
States which have fewer community college grads are going to have a harder time attracting businesses — no matter what else they do.
There’s a paradox here: on one hand, as more and more jobs can be worked remotely, location matters less than ever. But companies still want to expand in places where they’ll have many skilled workers available.
The best thing to do both for workers who want more options and for states and regions that want more businesses is: get more people into community colleges.
California Has a Solution
Calbright is a community college that is tailor made for this potential crisis.
We’re entirely online, so anyone in California can take our classes.
We have no barriers to entry: we’re currently free, and any adult Californian with a high school diploma or equivalent can enroll.
Our programs are focused on industries that need more workers for good jobs. We train people to get those jobs and succeed in them.
Our programs are fast. We don’t offer traditional diplomas: we offer certificates in skills that employers are looking for. These certificates can be obtained in under a year, meaning that people who want to enter a new workforce quickly can do it.
Perhaps most importantly, Calbright is designed for non-traditional students — people whose lives make attending a traditional community college difficult, if not impossible. That means Calbright can bring whole new groups of people into the 21st century economy, reaching those who most need to be reached. The more people from traditionally marginalized groups get ahead in the workforce, the better the economy does.