Monday, May 9, 2011

Community colleges: Equipping people for a tough job market by aligning them with needs

Just as it’s trying to do in education, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) is making “putting people back to work” a community priority.

That’s why April 28 was such an important day at the college’s Maryland Center for Construction Technologies as students completed pre-apprenticeship training in the building and construction trades–and qualified themselves for immediate work in basic carpentry, electrical and plumbing occupations. The Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and Goodwill Industries collaborated with BCCC to create a workforce instructional program at the Center designed to speed people’s prospects for re-employment. As part of their studies, the students received supporting instruction in basic math, job readiness and construction safety. In early March, evening classes were added for those unable to attend during the day. The entire effort was supported by a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Students who completed their pre-apprenticeship training in construction and building trades show off their certificates Thursday, April 28 at Baltimore City Community College’s Maryland Center for Construction Technologies.

Ready-made ways to equip people for a tough job market or train them in hot jobs without much hassle or overhead are the stock and trade of community colleges. The Maryland Governor’s Workforce Investment Board lists construction as one of five focus areas in its efforts to develop a skilled workforce in the state. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics notes basic construction industry jobs will grow by one-fifth from 2008-2018. This represents over 255,000 new positions created nationwide and a little over 5,000 in Maryland, when the number of new jobs is added to those requiring replacement workers for the ones who die, retire or move to other occupations. In the case of the BCCC Center, construction trades are moving students who lack significant training, or those trained in other occupations, out the door to a paycheck.

Students Gregganyah Orr (left) and O'Kima Davis plan to use their training to increase their earnings and pursue further study.

Given the hands-on nature of the work, the opportunity for close collaboration and mentoring by instructors leads many students to success and higher earning potential. And some may take the all-important step on the road to four-year college and university life: the achievement of an associate degree.



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