We at CCBC are quite aware that when we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic we cannot be the college we were two years ago. Many business and industry partners as well as Maryland’s Governor Hogan have already implemented policies to eliminate the four-year degree requirement for thousands of jobs. The new policy acknowledges that many potential employees may have obtained skills through on-the-job training, apprenticeships, military service and community colleges. Many of these job-seekers, now being referred to as “Skilled through Alternative Routes” or Maryland STARS, will provide a viable answer to the employee vacuum left by the Great Resignation. Community colleges can help.
CCBC is making a commitment to emerging from the pandemic prepared to finally become a 21st century college for 21st century students for 21st century jobs. As the acceptance of multiple credentials becomes a reality, we know that community colleges will play a key role in refining and defining the education and training needed to equip and upskill the workforce for tomorrow. Companies such as Amazon, Google, and UPS have already altered their degree expectations in favor of skills training credentials, expressing a willingness to hire for certified training and then extending tuition programs to enable their employees to continue working towards a degree should they wish to earn one.
Such corporate actions pointing in this direction convey a significant message to those of us at every level of higher education. This is a phenomenon that we are attending to at CCBC. With a mantra of “everything we do is workforce development,” CCBC has already committed to examining its full academic portfolio of credentials and associate degrees. We know that our education agenda must be an economic agenda; in truth, why else do we exist? From skills development for every occupation from nurses to truck drivers to welders to accountants to poets and dancers…and everything in between…we are crafting 21st century education for these 21st century jobs. We are incorporating every available strategy to dignify and amplify skills acquisition: credit for prior learning, competency-based education, apprenticeships, internships, and other online/in-seat/onsite strategies to prepare students for high paying jobs.
As our country prepares to enter the odd configuration of a recession with full employment, rather than the more usual configuration of rabid unemployment, community colleges can and should be a part of a solution that provides answers to the challenges faced by regional businesses and employers! We serve the most vulnerable populations and offer the hope of opportunity to many who would otherwise be left behind. No other sector of higher education can do what we can do. There are 1,000 community colleges across the country. Our time has come! There is work for us to do…and we are likely the only ones fully prepared to do it both wisely and well.