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Brookings Institution Hosts Conference: Preparing the Next Generation of Manufacturers through Community Colleges

July 13, 2015 02:39 PM

On July 9, Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution hosted a half-day conference focused on the growing partnership between community colleges and the manufacturing sector.BrookingCommColl

Since the "Great Recession", college graduates have entered a challenging job market. Some 2 million manufacturing jobs will remain vacant over the next decade, due in large part to the "skills gap."

Recently many educators and the Obama Administration have focused on  community college training programs as a way to address the "skills gap" and develop the next generation of manufacturing employees. As a result, many community colleges are entering partnerships with manufacturing companies to prepare students for a career in the manufacturing sector.

The panel discussions focused on three main topics: the future of workforce development, training workers in manufacturing and the role of community colleges in preparing students to fill the millions of vacant jobs.   

Panel 1: The Future of Workforce Development

The panel was moderated by Darrell West, Douglas Dillion Chair; Vice President and Director, Governance Studies, the Brookings Institution and participants included:

  • The Honorable David Cicilline (D-R.I.), U.S. House of Representatives
  • V. Celeste Carter, Program Director, Division of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • DeRionne Pollard, President Montgomery College

Dr. DeRionne Pollard, President of Montgomery College emphasized, that "focused pathways and deliberate redesign of intake processes at community colleges is critical to preparing students for jobs in the manufacturing sector."

V. Celeste Carter, Program Director at NSF talked about the lack of opportunities for women in the manufacturing sector. She stated that, "more women need to be recruited for science programs in community colleges."

Panel 2: Training Workers in Manufacturing

The panel was moderated by Patricia Cohen, Reporter New York Times and participants included:

  • Walter Siegenthaler, Executive Vice President, Max Daetwyler Corporation
  • Amy Cell, Consultant, Community Ventures
  • John White, President, Taco, Inc., Brookings Trustee

Walter Siegenthaler, Executive Vice President of Max Daetwyler Corporation (MDC) focused like a laser beam on the success of apprenticeship programs in Switzerland and other European countries. He related his own experience as a machinist in the apprenticeship program at Daetwyler in the 1970s. He is now the executive vice president for MDC-USA.

Panel 3: The Role of Community Colleges

The panel was moderated by Goldie Blumenstyk, Senior Writer, Chronicle of Education and participants included:

  • John Colborn, Director, Skills for America's Future, Aspen Institute
  • Thomas Bailey, Director, Community College Research Center, Columbia University
  • Adela Soltz, Fellow, Brown Center on Education Policy, The Brookings Institution

John Colborn of the Aspen Institute quipped that, "community college certificates can allow all students to develop "stackable skills" to move up the ladder, and successfully enter the workforce. Although he acknowledged that the "credentialing system is completely broken. There is huge confusion among students and employers."

Thomas Bailey, Director of the Community Colleges Research Center at Columbia said that, "there's not enough data available to assess the success of certification programs at community colleges."

He went on to say that, "matching local community colleges with local manufacturing employers is vital in filling the millions of vacant manufacturing jobs expected in the next decade.

Adela Soltz, Fellow, Brown Center on Education Policy, the Brookings Institution and former adjunct professor at a community college provided a unique perspective of the role of community colleges in providing the future employees of the manufacturing sector.

There was much conversation about the "training gap" that exists in the American workforce. Most of the panelists agreed that this gap plays a factor in declining wages. They all emphasized the role that society (public + private) must play to address workforce development.


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