As concerns grow over impending work-force shortages in science and technology fields, educators are looking to community colleges to fill the gap.
It isn’t just in research and other professionalized posts where talent in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—is needed. Shortages exist for technicians and skilled workers in advanced manufacturing, welding, and other technology-driven industries as well.
Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that 92 percent of STEM workers will need postsecondary education by 2018, and about 65 percent of STEM job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree. Colleges haven’t focused enough on the other 35 percent, the center has warned—the growing share whose jobs will require a certificate or associate degree.
That push can be not only market-driven but also personal. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research called on community colleges last year to encourage more low-income women to pursue STEM careers, and the relative job security and higher wages they tend to offer.
With their high enrollments of minority and low-income students, community colleges are obvious places to recruit a diverse work force.
One of the first steps is to alert students to the STEM jobs going unfilled for lack of qualified applicants. Because community-college students are more likely than others to be financially strained, however, they may shy away from time-intensive STEM programs. Those juggling classes, jobs, and family demands can be daunted by the academic requirements. And deficiencies in math often land students in remedial-course quicksand. <Read more.>