Published on 2012/01/13

Colleges Must Connect With Job Needs

The Associate Vice Chancellor of the Texas State Technical College System clearly stated the state’s higher education crisis to The New York Times’ Reeve Hamilton.

“Houston, we have a problem, and it’s not that too few people are going to college,” Bettersworth said. “It’s that too many people are getting degrees with limited value in the job market.”

Hamilton reports that Texas’ students are collecting college credits in droves, but without a clear idea of how that education will parlay into a job—this while the state’s reserve of skilled laborers is retiring with few in line with two-year vocational degrees to replace them.

John Dorer, the director of the Credentials That Work program run by Boston-based nonprofit Jobs for the Future, said the responsibility to prepare students for the workforce lies with higher education institutions.

“Schools have to nail it pretty much in terms of producing graduates that respond to the needs of the marketplace,” he told Hamilton.

However, Texas Workforce Commission chairman Tom Pauken told Hamilton challenging the notion that the worst bachelor’s degree is better than the best associate’s degree is the biggest hurdle to getting students into position for jobs.

“We’ve gotten completely away from the idea that we’ve got different talents and there are different approaches in terms of education,” Pauken said.

This sentiment was echoed by Joe Arnold, a government affairs manager with chemical company B.A.S.F..

“The problem is there aren’t enough people going to [community colleges] seeking education that will put them to work for us,” said Arnold. “People know that we need more manufacturing, but they don’t think of those jobs as something they want to send their kids to go do—or to do themselves.”

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