Up to 1.4 million workers will need reskilling by 2026 as a result of technological change, according to a report from the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group.
To help alleviate this “reskilling crisis,” employers in fields from manufacturing to information technology to healthcare are partnering with local community colleges to provide workers with free, customized skills training.
After all, “as the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution transforms what work will look like in the future, community college leaders must take the lead in reskilling our workforce,” writes Meacie Fairfax, an associate director for strategic research at EAB , in a blog post.
We profiled four community colleges that are working with local employers to upskill workers and improve access to higher ed. Here’s how they’re doing it:
Rather than providing skills training on campus, some partnerships are bringing the classroom directly to workers—in 53-foot-long refurbished trailers, reports Kerry Hannon for the New York Times. The trailer classrooms are equipped with Wi-Fi, video systems, desk stations, and even a lab area for hands-on training.
“The mission of community colleges is all about access to the skills training, and we are seeing more and more colleges adopting the mobile technology and buying the equipment to do it because they see it has such an impact,” says Darlene Miller, executive director of the National Council for Workforce Education.
“It’s exciting because as technology keeps changing with automation and artificial intelligence, workers need to keep being reskilled and retooled, and, for adults who are bound by family and life obligations, having access with a mobile lab to learn is critical,” adds Miller.
For instance, Cuyahoga Community College‘s (Tri-C) trailer classroom travels around Northeast Ohio to nine companies (including Oatey and Ford) and to schools in nine counties, writes Hannon.
“Our trailer, which is booked for 47 weeks this year, allows us to take the training to businesses and directly address the region’s manufacturing skills gap,” explains William Gary, executive vice president of work force, community and economic development at Tri-C. “Employers allow their employees time, and they can walk right out of the plant and into our trailer for an hour, or three hours, to conduct the training right on site.”
For workers, the on-demand training not only keeps their skills current, but also offers them an opportunity to move up in the company and earn higher wages. “For those who are mid- or late career, who perhaps haven’t had to navigate the enrollment process, time commitment and commuting aspects of college, the convenience of the mobile classroom has been a welcome innovation,” says Maureen Pansky, senior human resources manager at Oatey’s manufacturing plant.
Patty Erjavec, president of Pueblo Community College, adds that their team has “provided over 160,000 hours of ‘earn as you learn’ training,” and that “those completing the training see, on average, an initial 3 percent increase in pay.”
“I would love to see this all over the country for workers like me,” says Ruben Santos, a technical maintenance specialist for Oatey involved in Tri-C’s program. “I have been here for 30 years, and the mobile training is really giving me the opportunity to grow and stay on the job longer than I might have been able to do without it.”
The skills training not only benefits workers like Santos, but also the companies, writes Hannon. “We anticipate seeing improved machine uptime,” says Bob Rodgers, the chemical plant manager for Oatey. “When machines are running, we achieve greater efficiency and production. Moreover, with this investment, we see enthusiasm and engagement from our maintenance team who appreciate our commitment to their professional development.”
Similarly, two community colleges—Northern Maine Community College (NMCC) and Washington County Community College—are partnering with Washington Country to upskill fire department employees, police department employees, and other emergency service providers in the county.
“Access to healthcare is becoming increasingly challenging for many individuals in rural Maine,” says Andrew Gagnon, department chairman for EMS programs at NMCC. “It is imperative to have trained professionals who can readily respond and provide the medical attention that can stabilize an individual for transport to a medical facility.”
Washington County students enrolled in the new program will receive emergency medical service-paramedic training on campus and will participate in lab, field, and clinical activities at local healthcare facilities.
“The employers are pleased to have the opportunity to support their employees in receiving advanced education in this field,” says Wendy Bradstreet, NMCC director of Admissions and Outreach. “The service providers cover such a broad geographical area and emergency needs are varied, so having more employees with advanced training is imperative to serving the needs of the citizens of Washington County.”
As the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution transforms what work will look like in the future, community college leaders must take the lead in reskilling our workforce. Learn three key takeaways to consider.
Learn how community colleges prepare students for the future of work
"As the artificial intelligence revolution transforms what work will look like in the future, community college leaders must take the lead in reskilling our workforce," according to an EAB Community College Executive Forum blog post.
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