Published on 2013/10/16

Career Colleges Meet the Needs of Employees in the Evolving Labor Market

Career Colleges Meet the Needs of Employees in the Evolving Labor Market
As more focus is placed on the capacity for postsecondary graduates to find pathways to the workforce, career colleges can open the door for adults to enter new, high-demand fields.

You go to college, you graduate and you spend the rest of your career working.

That’s how things used to work.

Not anymore.

With the explosion of online business, big data, hi-tech equipment and the endless stream of workplace tools and technologies, today’s employee requires professional skills development like never before.

Enter career colleges.

Career colleges help people upgrade their skills so they can adapt quickly and efficiently to the shifting landscape of the career environment. They adapt to fit the demands of employers and the labor market, while equipping students with relevant skills needed to succeed.

In other words, they help students become “job ready.”

What Are Career Colleges?

Career colleges are private (both for-profit and not-for-profit) postsecondary institutions that provide career-specific, outcome-based programs. Graduates of career colleges can earn a diploma or certificate with a focus on career-specific training.

Who Are Career Colleges For?

Career colleges are ideal for anyone looking to become more “job ready” or to progress in their career. That could be someone who’s unemployed or underemployed, been out of school for several years or one who is currently employed and looking to upgrade his or her skills.

The average age of a career college student is 27, where 30 percent are over the age of 35 and about 40 percent have previously attended a university or community college.

What Types of Programs Are Offered?

Career colleges are designed to meet the unique needs of their students. They usually offer a mix of full-time diploma programs and short-term certificate programs and include smaller class sizes.

Programs can range from more general business-oriented to specific occupation-oriented. Most career colleges also offer short-term programs in building particular skills — such as customer service or QuickBooks training — that can be scheduled around a student’s work week or on weekends.

How Can Students Get Funding?

Students use a variety of options to fund their course of study, including personal funds, Employment Insurance (EI) funds, WSIB sponsorship or government-sponsored student loans.

In provinces such as Ontario, the government will also provide financial support for laid-off employees to get training at registered career colleges through programs such as “Second Career”.

Why Choose a Career College?

According to the Government of Canada, by 2020, two-thirds of all projected job openings will be in occupations requiring a vocational, college or university education. The specific outcome-based nature of the training offered by career colleges ensures graduates have the tools to meet the demands of the labor market.

Career colleges may also help students find employment more quickly. At my college, for example, 83 percent of graduates in the last year found employment within an average of 12 weeks after graduation.

The need for education and new skills is clear. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, there will be 45 million more jobs worldwide that require a secondary-level college education than there will be graduates by 2030, and 90 to 95 million more low-skilled workers than there are positions.

Career colleges can help prepare individuals for the shifting skills demand and help them set up for success.

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Readers Comments

Glenda Cullen 2013/10/16 at 12:35 pm

I agree career colleges are useful for a certain type of student, and the fact that they are outcome based means students can see real benefits very quickly following graduation.

One improvement I could suggest is for career colleges to do a better job of putting students on the pathway to further education. Perhaps this means developing agreements with other institutions to easily transfer credits earned at a career college to a degree or diploma program, or providing services to graduates hoping to apply to further postsecondary studies. I think many students think of their career college as the end, rather than the beginning, of their education, and more could be done to correct this perception.

    Chuck Dull 2013/10/16 at 3:13 pm

    This is an excellent point, one that was actually the mission of career colleges. Their goal was education to get a student to be an employee not a continuing student. As you imply this has changed. When I worked for a career college as a student adviser I noticed that while a large percentage of our students wanted the career now, there was a growing percentage that once they got their feet wet with education, and success, wanted to continue, only to find that credit transfer was a challenge. While the US Dept of Ed does not permit a school to not accept credits based on accreditor, it is this that prevents the transfer you suggest. Many career colleges are ACICS or ACCSC, national accreditors. Most public 4 years schools are regionally accredited with one of the big 6 regionals. The regionals often will not accept credits from a nationally accredited school. I have seen the exact same text and outcomes in a nationally accredited school be refused on transfer at a regionally accredited school. So, try as they might, this is something career schools cannot solve without a move to regional accreditation or a move by the US Dept of Ed to mandate acceptance. Funny, if you reviewed the ACICS standards or even ACCSC you’ll find much better measures of accountability than with regional accreditors or focus more on mission and vision.

    Simon Pickering 2013/10/17 at 2:58 pm

    my guess is many students — particularly adult and non-traditional — enroll in career colleges for a specific purpose, most likely job preparation. They are more interested in acquiring skills they will be able to apply to their existing job, or that they need to enter the marketplace, than in pursuing additional education. Thus, maybe institutions that cater to this population don’t need to be in the business of encouraging them to further their studies.

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