In 2019, Let’s Bring the Community Back to College.

column | Digital Learning

In 2019, Let’s Bring the Community Back to College.

By Mordecai I. Brownlee (Columnist)     Dec 18, 2018

In 2019, Let’s Bring the Community Back to College.

This article is part of the guide: New Year, New Learning: Reflections on Education in 2018 and Beyond.

Community colleges have long served the U.S. by providing access to career and technical training, as well as quality education in the liberal arts, mathematics and sciences. Much has changed since the humble beginnings of community colleges, though. Now, as we enter into 2019, many core elements of the community college sector are threatened due to anecdotal student success metrics, broken funding models, and increased public skepticism over the value of higher education.

Worsening this issue that many families aren’t familiar with the higher-ed landscape and the opportunities that community college can open up for their children. In 2019, improving the way we connect K-12 to higher education—and bringing families into the conversation about college and career pathways—will be key issues to tackle.

Economically, the U.S. is at a crossroads. Technology has advanced with new innovations, opening the door to new and exciting career options. However, our country has failed to train segments of its eligible workforce with skills necessary to take advantage of these opportunities. Furthermore, society has failed to convey the value of these opportunities with our youth, creating a gap between available jobs and those equipped to fulfill employer needs.

Understanding the implications facing industry and education, the charge now is turning these career opportunities into successes by identifying solutions to meet workforce needs—and community colleges stand at the forefront of this charge. However, while technology has been integrated in education for many years, not every higher-ed institution has utilized the tools available to solve this challenge.

Specifically, higher education has yet to embrace strategies that align K-12 education with college and career pathways. More importantly, our educational systems have failed to educate both our youth and their parents on the importance of the various workforce pathways available.

Better lines of communication about educational opportunities will not only improve the lives of students, but their successes will impact the lives of others. And this will have major impacts on diversifying demographics in higher education as well as meeting the needs for our workforce.

As we move forward into 2019 and beyond, stakeholders spanning K-12 and higher education must commit to utilizing technology to educate our youth on the opportunities available to them. Secondly, those who work in education must consider and educate parents on the career pathways available to their children.

Far too long society has placed emphasis on four-year degrees being the sole path towards opportunity and success. Unfortunately, while that traditional pathway towards success has proved to be true for some, it has failed to be a reality for all. As the demographics of our country’s youth continues to evolve, using technology to communicate workforce awareness will serve as a catalyst for change for those seeking social and upward mobility.

Simply put, the technology exists, the infrastructure exists, but a commitment to aligning our youth with workforce pathways does not—yet.

The good news is this can and must change. To begin to see these changes, we can start by asking local education leaders the following questions: What interactive and immersion programs can both education and industry create at local levels that incorporate technology that involves both the student and their parents? How can we create a movement that adds societal value to the various workforce pathways available to all, and place great emphasis on workforce’s ability to promote social and upward mobility?

The future of our country relies on our ability to make answering these questions a priority. If we don’t, our country will not only fail to meet current and future industry needs, but these gaps in achievement and the workforce will worsen.

From their beginning, community colleges were poised to ensure that citizens have a pathway to the knowledge and skills necessary to economically advance themselves or advance their education at a senior institution. The economic success of our country depends on our ability to seize these opportunities.

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