Leading the way in workforce education

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Since the pandemic, community colleges have taken full advantage of the opportunity to continue to find new ways of working, connecting, teaching and learning. Our colleges continuously adapt in ways that were once thought impossible and that continue to benefit the millions of students that attend our institutions.

Let’s face it. We have always let change be the tradition at the nation’s community colleges. From the beginning, we have been rooted in access yet constantly growing to meet the needs of local communities nationwide. Each day, we reimagine how we can help students succeed.

Success means different things to different people, but there is no doubt that community colleges lead the way to success with career and technical education pathways. We are a key partner with employers on ways to deliver curriculum that aligns with current workforce needs, and how to reimagine education and training to ensure that we respond effectively to a rapidly changing economy. We have built a renowned reputation for working across sectors to align workforce needs with skills education.

This article comes from the current issue of the Community College Journal, which has a workforce development focus. AACC’s Workforce Development Institute in New Orleans begins Tuesday and runs through Friday.

As we continue to reimagine how we deliver education, it is more important than ever that we maintain our role in being the nexus of community colleges, business and government. It is because we work together to align education with business and economic needs that we have seen advances in career and technical education that directly benefits students.

Like with traditional academics, the continuous improvement process has been applied to workforce education programs. That ensures that programs meet the needs of businesses and that students are able to earn family-sustaining wage jobs and we are realizing the benefits of that work.

These programs are touted by officials in Washington, D.C., and partnerships with our colleges and the American Association of Community Colleges are sought by Fortune 100 companies. They recognize that skills-based hiring is valuable and is a pathway for community college students to be not just viable candidates but desirable candidates for well-paying jobs.

We continue to work across sectors to break with traditional models and outdated thinking to ensure that certificates, badges, micro-credentials and degrees are integrated in the pathway to success that starts with skills that are relevant and necessary in today’s (and tomorrow’s) labor market. We are working to identify and eradicate barriers for under-resourced populations that can greatly benefit from the programs and services designed to lead to meaningful career opportunities. These shifts are happening because of your collective work. I am confident that they will not just continue, but advance as we continue to adapt to the rapidly-changing world around us with its new challenges, new technology and new workforce needs.

So, I urge you to continue to honor the tradition of change and continue to evolve the programs and services that allow for success.

About the Author

Walter G. Bumphus
Dr. Walter G. Bumphus is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.