Short-term workforce training can help advance your career

By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the U.S. will require some post-secondary education.

Posted Updated
Lisa D'Aromando
, freelance reporter
This article was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Community Colleges.

It is no secret that education leads to opportunities; however, over the last few years, the type of education and the curriculum of programs designed to capture these opportunities have significantly changed.

As technologies evolve and the needs of communities shift, so too do labor requirements. According to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the United States will require some post-secondary education.

Traditionally, when people think of post-secondary education, a bachelor or associate's degree comes to mind. But in North Carolina, there are well-paying jobs that require only state- or industry-recognized credentials, which can be obtained through short-term workforce training.

N.C. Community Colleges offer short-term workforce training in industry sectors such as aviation, construction, healthcare, industrial and manufacturing, information technology, transportation, and public safety.

Community colleges will also be looking to expand short-term training opportunities, thanks in part to the General Assembly, which provided nearly $15 million in the 2018-19 state budget to support the growth and development of these programs.

What is Short-Term Workforce Training?

By aligning with state- and industry-recognized credentials, N.C. Community Colleges have designed programs that help students obtain specific skill sets wanted by industry.

These students can enter into — or return to — the workforce, or they can translate the skills learned into credits and move forward towards a degree. For example, students can earn basic law enforcement training credentials, and either be employable directly after the program or earn college credits to pursue a criminal justice degree.

Advantages of Short-Term Workforce Training Programs

A short-term program not only allows for more flexibility in terms of program completion, but also allows students to enter at different points during the year since courses don't follow specific semester scheduling.

Compared to a typical higher-education calendar that requires applications to be submitted six months to a year in advance, students can begin their training at one of the N.C. Community Colleges immediately.

Additionally, the combination of the shorter-term career development and localized curriculum by program allows for a more immediate response to the needs of local businesses and organizations. Training is aligned to build the skills needed to work in each community and get well-paying jobs there.

According to Margaret Roberton, associate vice president for Continuing Education for the N.C. Community College System, it's that ability to learn directly from the employers what skill sets they demand and where their pain-points are that makes NCCC really stand out.

"That's the uniqueness, and I think really the strength of what the colleges are able to do," Roberton explained. "They're able to sit down with those employers and say, 'What exactly are the skills that you want when these individuals come out?' And then define a learning opportunity for students to be able to acquire those skill sets that really respond to a sector's need."

Who Benefits from Short-Term Workforce Training?

At N.C. Community Colleges, students represent a broad spectrum of career levels and future goals, each of which benefits from the opportunities offered by short-term training and development.

Unemployed recent high school graduates or those facing a period of unemployment can get a base-level of workforce education and support to enter or re-enter the job market. Workers who are currently under-employed, either working part-time or at a low wage, can get the skills they need to move into a better role with a higher wage. Veterans coming out of service can leverage their military experience to get industry credentials and begin life as a civilian. Even those actively working can get additional credentials to move up in their organizations.

Short-term training can also be a great first step for those who haven’t been in the education system for a while, or for those who are not sure if they can sustain it.

But does it pay to go back to school, even for a short time?
The Census Bureau did a study on job training in 2012. Those who earned professional certifications or licenses had higher salaries than those without credentials at every other education level under a four-year college degree.
In business speak, the return on investment, or ROI, is there. In fact, according to a 2014 joint study by the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Education, and Health and Human Services, "a post-secondary education, particularly a degree or industry-recognized credential related to jobs in demand, is the most important determinant of differences in workers’ lifetime earnings and incomes."

"If you are looking on pure ROI of what is the cost to invest in myself to get some skill training and be able to enter the workforce in a real, viable way, the ROI on that is really significant," Roberton said. "Colleges recognize students are on an educational path, that short-term training is one step in that, and that's a means of getting some valuable skills and some credentials and entering into the workforce. How do we help that student see those next steps to enhancing their education and their skill training so they can make the next moves forward and upward within their occupation? And how do we enable that to occur in the most efficient way for the students?"

Adam Angrisanio, who will graduate from Sandhills Fire Academy to pursue his post-military career, had his own feedback on the program.

"I chose to attend the Fire Academy at Sandhills Community College because of their reputation of high standards, professionalism and respect," he said. "The opportunity to participate in Sandhills Fire Academy and complete the N.C. Firefighter certification, as well as Emergency Medical Technician, in less than six months has been very beneficial.

"These opportunities have made me more marketable for a job and provided me with a wealth of knowledge in the field. I feel I am now highly qualified and trained to manage a multitude of emergency situations in multiple different situations."

This article was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Community Colleges.