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Study: Community colleges key to solving work force shortages

Posted May 28, 2008
Updated May 29, 2008

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— The state's 58 community colleges should be the state's main tool for dealing with shortages of nurses, teachers, and biotechnology workers, the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research said in a study released Thursday.

The community college system is "the most cost-effective and fastest way to produce the number of workers needed to meet region-specific demand," the center's report said.

The report is part of a series of studies on the community college system.

Overall, the study reported that registered nurses, home-health aides, truck drivers, nursing aides, home-care aides and elementary school teachers are the fastest-growing occupations in the state, and it said community colleges provide training for all of them.

“North Carolina is short on workers, but the community colleges are not short on solutions,” said Mebane Rash Whitman, editor of the center’s journal, North Carolina Insight. “If given the support they need, they’ll give North Carolina’s employers the workers to meet the shortages.”

The center included five recommendations with its analysis:

  • State government needs to recognize that the community colleges are the best buy and most effective venue for training nurses and teachers.
  • The State Board of Education should change its rules so teachers can get licenses after community-college training.
  • The Legislature should provide more money for higher-cost, high-demand programs that lead to high-paying jobs.
  • The Legislature needs to increase faculty salaries from 46th in the nation to the national average.
  • More partnerships are needed among the community college system, the UNC system, the business community, private foundations and lawmakers.

The report praised the UNC system for increasing its cooperation with the community colleges on teacher training, but there are still issues with associate degrees in applied science.

The study made five recommendations to help community colleges address work force shortages:

  • The General Assembly, the State Board of Education and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction should adopt policies that establish the N.C. Community College System as the primary venue through which to train the number of nurses and teachers the state needs.
  • The State Board of Education, Community College System and Department of Public Instruction should make it easier for community colleges to train teacher education students for licensure.
  • The General Assembly should provide differentiated funding for selected community college programs, including more funding for higher-cost programs in areas of increased state need such as allied health.
  • The General Assembly should adopt a policy of moving salaries for community college faculty to the national average.
  • The N.C. Community College System should use the BioNetwork’s strategy of forming innovative, strategic, and diverse partnerships with industry, private grant-making foundations, the UNC system and the General Assembly as a blueprint for achieving similar success in the fields of allied health, teacher education, and other fields of strategic importance.

The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research corporation created in 1977 to evaluate state government programs and to study public policy issues facing North Carolina.

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  • cmackethan May 30, 2008

    Wrong, Admiral. The folks I teach graduate with an AA and go staight into the market place and make more than I do after 25 years in education. When you chose computers, you chose the wrong field. Most computer sevice and almost all tech service went overseas. Healthcare cannot be outsourced!

  • TheAdmiral May 29, 2008

    This is a crock.

    I went into a community college because they said that they were going to need 80% more computer service individuals. Guess what - they hired them and then put them on unemployment.

    The fact of the matter is that the community colleges have become irrelevant. Now you need Bachelors or Masters to earn a living wage.

  • cmackethan May 29, 2008

    I am a community college English instructor. I have over 25 years in education. I often find myself teaching 7th grade grammar to college freshmen. Many of these students come out of public schools thinking they cannot be left behind no matter how little they know or how little they do.I cannot "fix" twelve years of neglected grammatical and critical thinking skills in one semester. The average community college instructor teaches 18 - 20 hours per semester.I usually have about one hundred students per semester. I have no TA . This number of hours is more than the average university professor teaches in one year. Also, if one looks at community college faculty, one will see that these faculties are top heavy with instructors over 50. It is difficult to attract and retain young instructors when salaries are so low and teaching loads are so heavy. Yet, year after year, community colleges are overlooked or ignored, while being asked to do more and more. It is discouraging to say the leas

  • Timetogo May 29, 2008

    One more thing.. NC Community Colleges don't get funding (FTE) for providing summer classes. Never have. When legislature was passed for public school and University funding, Community Colleges didn't exist yet...

  • sdunham46 May 29, 2008

    I cannot understand the reason for cutting funding to Community Colleges, for paying its instructors in the bottom quartile of the national scale, and for not changing the FTE formula (funding formula) in 30 years. Why would the Governor suggest a large teacher pay raise for public schools when they are graduating students who come to Community Colleges not knowing grammar, unable to write a paragraph, unable to make simple inferences from their reading. They don't even know where The Netherlands is, much less its capital city. Even a Montessori third grader knows more about grammar, writing, and geography than do most public school graduates. The train for the 21st Century has left the station, and North Carolina workforce will be "left behind" with the legislature's current attitude toward its Community Colleges.

  • Timetogo May 29, 2008

    NOW, Middle College (highschool students) and soon, Early College (middleschool students) are taking CC space and educators to make current space and funding situations worse. We need to send HIGH SCHOOL students back to HIGH SCHOOL and stop draining our Community Colleges!

  • Word May 29, 2008

    What is more interesting is that NCDPI is getting rid of their "Teacher Education Section" which has like 5 people in it that work with the Teacher Ed Programs across the state, and putting it under one person that works with the State Board. That should show the importance (or lack there of) that is truly being placed on Teacher Education in our state.

  • The Hammer May 29, 2008

    Expansion of the community college system is a direct result of the failure of the public schools to provide adequate vocational education. We have the most bloated education bureaucracy in the history of mankind. Look around the world, plumbers, electricians, accountants etc. are trained and ready to go at age 18 or 19. They hit the ground running earning a good wage. How many at risk kids would be saved if they knew school would actually provide them with a marketable skill? Unfortunately that doesn't sit well with the education machine which is more concerned with the bureaucratic imperative, more teachers more buildings more money.

  • ORMA May 29, 2008

    If Community Colleges are playing such a big role in solving the workforce shortages, then why is the Governor not doing his best to get them more money? He has proposed that teachers get a 7% pay raise while state employees (community college faculty and professional staff) get 1.5% plus a one time $1000 bonus that will be HEAVILY taxed. I teach at a community college on a 12 month contract. My wife is a school teacher on a 10 month contract. She makes more money in 10 months than I do in 12. Where is the justice and equality in that? Community Colleges have also seen their operating and equipment budgets cut over the past few years. The old phrase about getting blood from a turnip comes to mind. Legislators need to wake up and see what is happening. State employees outnumber teachers and work longer contract years than teachers, but get no respect in the area of equitable reimbursement.