Community college addresses workforce crisis with training for immigrants
- Southern Maine Community College is trying to reverse a dangerous workforce trend — a lack of emergency responders in its surrounding region — with a new program designed to offer affordable training and certification in the field. The plot twist? The program specifically targets immigrants for enrollment, according to The New York Times.
- The program is funded in part by a workforce development grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation. The program delivers an 16-week, eight-hour per-week course to qualify for tests and certification. Officials said that because many immigrants have prior medical training, they are an ideal fit for the program.
- Maine is one of many states suffering from population loss and its impact on the job market. According to The New York Times, just two of the state's counties had more births than deaths in 2016.
While programs like these may fly in the face of conversation on travel bans and border security, they do address significant workforce needs in areas of the country hard hit by population declines and disappearing industries. From the college business perspective, the Maine program is a model being used across the country to create synergy between institutions and growing industries.
California community colleges have built a workforce development network between institutions and corporations, with campuses offering skills and training that are proximate to nearby jobs. And interestingly, the program that serves the state's 113 community college campuses is directed by an immigrant,Van Ton-Quinlivan.
Ton-Quinlivan, vice-chancellor of workforce and economic development, said in a 2017 interview with Education Dive: "Education can’t be the primary force pushing or pulling, and neither can the employers," she said. "The old model of educators teaching and then throwing students over the wall and expecting that they will land on their feet on the employer side doesn’t work; we have to be in conversation along the way.
"It mirrors the supply chain," she added. "It is analogous in that suppliers created things and then people who benefited from those products either liked them or didn’t like them. Over time, they determined that there was a better process for suppliers and consumers coming together and speaking about what’s quality and what works."