The administration says these funds will give community colleges the resources they need to become “community career centers” where people learn and develop skills that are in demand with local businesses.
A key component of the community college plan would institute “pay for performance” in job training, meaning there would be financial incentives to ensure that trainees find permanent jobs — particularly for programs that place individuals facing the greatest hurdles getting work. It also would promote training of entrepreneurs, provide grants for state and local government to recruit companies, and support paid internships for low-income community college students.
“These investments will give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers where people learn crucial skills that local businesses are looking for right now, ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce they need and workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials to build strong careers,” the White House said in a statement.
Even as the United States struggles to emerge from the economic downturn, there are high-tech industries with a shortage of workers. And it is anticipated there will be 2 million job openings in manufacturing nationally through 2018, mostly owing to Baby Boomer retirement, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. The catch is that these types of jobs frequently require the ability to operate complicated machinery and follow detailed instructions, as well as some expertise in subjects like math and statistics.
As costs at four-year colleges have soared, enrollments at community colleges have increased by 25 percent during the last decade and now top more than 6 million students, according to the American Institutes for Research. People with a one-year certificate or two-year degree in certain career fields can earn higher salaries than those with a traditional college degree, said Anthony Carnevale, director of the center at Georgetown University.
For more analysis of Obama’s 2013 budget, see:
Obama seeks more money for education, setting up showdown with Congress
Mark Schneider, the former U.S. commissioner of education statistics who now serves as vice president at the American Institutes for Research, said there’s no doubt that high-tech companies need skilled workers. But he said there are challenges with leaning heavily on community colleges. Many students enter community colleges lacking math skills. The sophisticated equipment needed for training is expensive, and there’s little known about the effectiveness of individual community colleges programs across the country, he said.
“We need measures of how well they are training their students, how well their students are being placed in the job market, and … are they making money?” Schneider said. “We need to track that really, really carefully. And, we need to make all that information available to students before they sign on … and before taxpayers subsidize all of this.”
ED also would invest $1.1 billion to support the reauthorization and reform of the Career and Technical Education program to ensure that what students learn is more closely aligned with the demands of the workforce. It also would strengthen partnerships with postsecondary education.
In a statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten applauded the president for rejecting the “cuts-only obsession of many in Congress.”
“We are concerned, however, that the budget also proposes to flat-fund programs like Title I that go directly to support low-income children in the classroom,” she added. “With 3 million more children in poverty since the start of our economic crisis, we can’t afford to freeze funding to Title I, while competitive grant programs that serve some, but not all, receive increases.”