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|Thursday, March 27, 2014|
BY MARY SPILDE | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Changes in the economy and in higher education create a unique opportunity for strengthening the partnership between employers and community colleges. Employers need more workers to fill jobs in high demand fields such as manufacturing, health care, information technology and skilled trades. For example the Manufacturing Institute recently found that 5 percent of the manufacturing positions available nationwide are unfilled due to lack of qualified candidates. These are middle-skills jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree which pay a family wage. At the same time, Oregon’s aspirational vision of 40-40-20 — 40% of Oregonians with a bachelor’s degree, 40% with an associate degree, certificate or credential, 20% with only a high school diploma — brings renewed focus to that middle 40.
The comprehensive mission of community colleges gives us a role in each component of Oregon’s vision. Many of our students transfer to universities. In fact, 62% of Oregonians with a bachelors degree have attended a community college; colleges have robust partnerships with high schools to provide college classes in schools and seamless pathways to college; but it is our career, technical and workforce programs serving the middle 40 that present an opportunity to bring business and education together as never before.
Oregon’s seventeen community colleges typically reflect the communities they serve. Whether it’s a two-year degree, certificate or industry credential, community colleges prepare the majority of workers for local economies. However, changes in the structure of the labor market require us to continuously evolve. To ensure vibrant, relevant programs, we must constantly work with employers to assess the labor market, conduct robust program reviews, and innovate accordingly. We must validate and align curricula with sector employment need. We must improve opportunities for apprenticeships and internships in order to provide early workplace experiences. This ability to change to meet emerging needs is one of our strengths; much of this work is already going on at our community colleges but we will need to enhance existing partnerships with employers to take it to an unprecedented scale.
Aside from providing high quality technical training that meets real labor market needs, we should rethink how we organize the curriculum. In this era of focusing on student success and explicit learning outcomes, we must ensure that every course, every module and every credential connects and actually leads to something meaningful. Whether it is a laddered or layered curriculum, or stackable certificates that lead to a degree, we must be more intentional in overall program design so that students who stop in and stop out, depending on their situation, are on a pathway to success.
We must do more than assure high quality technical training. The data are clear—the more learning, the higher the earnings. We must be vigilant that we do not relegate our students to the lowest paying jobs most impacted by economic uncertainty. We need to educate our students not just for a job but to weather a turbulent economy and be ready for continuing shifts. It is critical that we look beyond narrow job training and integrate broader knowledge that helps students navigate the unscripted challenges that they will face in the market place.
The comprehensive mission of community colleges requires us to prepare students for work, citizenship and life. Our two-year degree programs already include general education but if innovation is to be the hallmark of our economic recovery we must expose students to a curriculum that blends liberal and applied learning. Our students need the skills to cope with change and complexity if they are to forge a path through economic dislocation, or avoid it altogether. This is especially true for under-represented students. They should be encouraged to explore the richness of the arts and sciences in addition to participating in technical programs.
A recent study by Hart Research Associates found that employers want colleges to place more emphasis on helping students develop five key learning outcomes including: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication and applying knowledge in real-world settings. They found that employers agreed that having both field-specific knowledge and a broad range of skills is most important for graduates to achieve long term career success. These skills are often developed in the humanities, arts and sciences so it is essential that students, our current and future workers, are exposed to a broad range of learning opportunities that prepare them for the expectations and challenges that exist in the contemporary work environment.
There is much at stake. Education and workforce must be inextricably linked to create the economy that is essential to the well-being of Oregon. Community colleges are committed to focusing on the “middle 40” and we look forward to expanding our connection with employers and our partners to ensure that our curriculum prepares students for the responsibilities they face as citizens. That’s how we create healthy, empowered workers, businesses, families and communities.
Mary Spilde is president of Lane Community College. Spilde is one of three university administrators contributing quarterly perspectives on higher education for OregonBusiness.com. The two other contributors are Wim Wiewel, president of Portland State University, and Debra Ringold, Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette University.
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
Most of the food Americans consume is trucked in from hundreds of miles away. Eric Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Gro-volution, wants to change that. So this past spring, the Air Force veteran and former greenhouse manager started work on an alternative farming system he claims is more efficient than conventional agriculture, and also shortens the distance between the consumer and the farm.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY GINA BINOLE
Screening for “culture fit” has become an essential part of the hiring process. But do like-minded employees actually build strong companies — or merely breed consensus culture?
Thursday, July 30, 2015
BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Greenpeace activists suspended themselves from the St. John's Bridge in an attempt to prevent a ship from heading to the Arctic.
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Oregon's roads are crumbling, and revenues from state and local gas taxes are not sufficient to pay for improvements. We asked readers if the private sector should help fund transportation maintenance and repairs. Research partner CFM Strategic Communications conducted the poll of 366 readers in February.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Which of the following would be most effective in reducing the cost of operating a public university in Oregon?
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY BRIAN LIBBY
Ben Kaiser holds his ground.
|Child care challenge|
|Is there life beyond Reed?|
|Downtime with Jill Nelson|
Transforming the culture of Oregon’s educational leadership.
The Board dismissed a petition related to efforts to unionize the Northwestern University football team.
Every once in a while we receive a letter in the (fictional) mailbag that is tough to describe and quite compelling. This week, Isabel, the new HR manager at LabCo (and someone who is new to HR), wants to know whether she may fire the owner’s son for having an Oregon medical marijuana card. In passing, Isabel also makes a number of alarming admissions about her motivation. Here is Isabel’s nerve-racking question and our response to it.
Oregon Sick Leave is here, and changes to the federal white-collar worker regulations are on the way. This workshop will prepare you for both. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to start planning now for the future impact on your operations and finances.
Presented by OEN + CENTRL + YESpdx.
This Roundtable will cover numerous issues under the employer "shared responsibility" rules of the Affordable Care Act, including how to track the "full-time" status of variable-hour employees, temporary or seasonal employees, and employees who experience a change in status or a break in service. Additionally, we will provide a brief overview of Code sections 6055 and 6056, which require most mid-sized and large employers to submit their first information reports to the IRS in early 2016 regarding the health insurance coverage being offered to employees. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to prepare for the future impact of the shared responsibility rules on your operations and finances.