First Posted: 10/30/2009
A primary role of community colleges throughout the country is to deliver appropriate education and training services to empower and engage its residents in the community.
A high school graduate beginning a career, an incumbent worker seeking to sharpen his or her skills, a recently laid-off worker who needs training to re-enter the workforce, are all supported and served by a community college.
All 58 community colleges in the North Carolina Community College System strive to provide the states communities and employers with a highly-skilled, well-trained and competent workforce that can compete in the global marketplace and support continued economic development and growth.
A recent study by the American Association of Community Colleges indicates the majority of community college students who attend college in lower division transfer and professional technical programs enroll to secure employment, retain current employment, or prepare for upward mobility and advancement. It is essential for each college to establish a workforce development strategy reflecting the wants and needs of students and the business community.
Robeson Community College is serious about workforce development: re-training workers to maintain employment or to enter new job areas, preparing students to transfer to four-year institutions, and giving unemployed people a chance to secure entry-level employment.
Additionally, RCC plays a vital role in partnering with local governments to attract and retain new businesses and industries to the area, which is accomplished through quality education and training services.
Universities that offer distance learning and degree programs through the Web compete with community colleges. North Carolinas community colleges are fortunate to have the support of statewide initiatives, such as the JOBS Now program, endorsed by Gov. Bev Perdue. This initiative benefits people who have lost their jobs. It will create community college programs in 12 careers, each requiring less than six months to complete. RCC presently offers classes in welding, office technology/customer relations, medical coding, phlebotomy and basic law enforcement training.
RCCs Human Resources Development offers classes in career readiness training. Participants can earn a certificate that reports their ability to perform tasks required by employers. This program has become popular nationwide as a system for certifying the basic skills necessary to succeed in a typical job.
Entrepreneurship programs potentially provide a way to create greater value for students, employers and communities. RCC is one of eight community colleges in the state to receive funds from the Growing America Through Entrepreneurship program through the U.S. Department of Labor. The program assists dislocated workers in exploring self-employment as an alternative career path.
Historically, community colleges provided an education for high school graduates who otherwise would have been denied access to higher education. Community colleges offer two-year degrees that can serve as a low-cost beginning for a student to pursue traditional academic programs.
RCC, like many other community colleges, has transfer agreements with four-year colleges and universities. These agreements allow students to complete their first two years at RCC for a much lower cost. The transfer program has one of the highest enrollments and continues to grow.
The success of a community colleges workforce development strategy depends upon strong support from the colleges administration. At RCC, the administration is quick to admit that the colleges secret is strong relationships with industry partners, local government, workforce development agencies and other local education agencies.
The construction of a new Workforce Development Center, slated to open in November, is a testament of the commitment of workforce development. Additionally, it shows the college and partnerships ability to adapt to demands of the times and ensure they continue to meet the needs of those served.
Lisa O.Hunt is Public Information Officer at Robeson Community College. You can reach her at [email protected]