Community Colleges: A Look Ahead
A conversation with five leaders in education
Recently, the Brookings Foundation issued
a policy brief that analyzed likely trends
in supply and demand for workers with
In recent years, community colleges have
increasingly become active in the battle to
keep America competitive internationally by
different levels of education and skills.
The paper concluded there will be a robust
training middle-skill workers. Community
college-based Tech Prep programs, a
million students in U.S.
demand for middle-skill workers, those
who generally require some education and
planned sequence of study in a technical
field beginning as early as the ninth year
training beyond high school but less than a of school, can extend through two years of
bachelor’s degree. Middle-skills job categories, postsecondary occupational education, and
which make up approximately half of all
employment, include clerical, sales,
construction, installation/repair, production,
culminate in an associate degree or certificate.
Partnerships with local business and industry
are another unique aspect of the community
and transportation/material moving.1
college experience, with advisory committees million of them
Demand for these middle-skill workers is made up of local business and industry
already outpacing the supply of trained representatives providing advice and support enrolled in
workers. Siemens Corp., the U.S. arm of to vocational programs. Apprenticeship or
Germany’s Siemens AG, recently reported it
is struggling to fill over 3,000 job openings
intern programs also contribute to the
development of the middle-skills workforce.
all over the country. More than half require
science, technology, engineering, and Despite the impressive growth of community
math-related skills. Other manufacturers colleges in recent years, they are facing
looking for skilled workers report job vacancies daunting challenges. New curricula are needed
that range from six to 200, with some positions to match the escalating rate of developments
open for at least nine months.2 in society, commerce, and technology.
Online learning increases annually, raising
percent are first
Other U.S. companies share the Siemens
experience. A report in The New York Times on
the question of how colleges will adapt
their built environment to accommodate in their family to
why companies have difficulty manufacturing
in the U.S. notes the lack of a technical
this shift in pedagogy. The rate of change in
our society seems to grow exponentially. To attend college 4
workforce as one of the biggest barriers. “In better understand the evolving mission of
particular,” the author notes, “companies community colleges and the challenges they
say they need engineers with more than face, Herman Miller recently spoke with five
high school, but not necessarily a bachelor’s community college leaders.
degree.” A quote from an Apple executive
underscores the issue: “The U.S. has stopped Ruth Prather is Provost at Valencia Community
producing people with the skills we need.”3 College in Orlando, Florida, an institution
recently ranked second in the nation in the
number of associate’s degrees conferred.
Sandra Gaskin is Executive Director of the Herman Miller: Technology is changing so Annual Average Tuition in 20115
National Council for Continuing Education much of our lives and certainly the way
and Training (NCCET). people learn. How is technology affecting $30,000
learning at community colleges? $28,500
Kathryn Jo Mannes heads the American
Association of Community Colleges Center Ruth Prather: Technology is a big enabler for
for Workforce and Economic Development. faculty that accelerates curriculum development $20,000
and implementation. At Valencia, we have
Gerardo de los Santos is President and Chief implemented Technology Resource Centers at
Executive Officer of the League for Innovation all our campuses where faculty development $10,000
in the Community College. $8,244
is supported by instructional designers who
assist faculty in developing curriculum with
Andrew L. Meyer is Vice President for Learning appropriate technology solutions. Today’s
at Anne Arundel Community College in faculty must demonstrate strong technology Private 4-year Public Public
Maryland, and is also the Board Chair of skills to keep pace. College College Community
the Global Corporate College, a nationwide (In-State) College
consortium of community colleges that offers Gerardo de los Santos: We see the growth
training to major corporations at multiple of hybrid learning, a combination of
locations throughout the country. asynchronous and in-person learning activities.
Hybrid approaches to learning will be strong,
Herman Miller: There are plenty of reports combining the flexibility, access, and efficiency
about how education is failing to prepare of digital connectivity with the onsite benefits
graduates for the workforce. How can Black
of student services for a growing number of 44%
community colleges address this issue? first-generation students. In the process,
these students are improving their social Hispanic
Sandra Gaskin: We must ensure that when 52%
students graduate they will have employable engagement and non-cognitive skills.
skills. Faculty will need to stay in touch with Herman Miller: The classroom of the future 55%
the world of work if they are to develop truly will undoubtedly look different than ones
contemporary curricula. Our membership currently in use today. Given the body of
provides non-credit customized training evidence that shows that students learn
across the board—from small businesses to best in environments that foster collaboration
major corporations. We have to keep up with and peer-to-peer learning, what do you
the customer’s pace and give them a solid see as the future of educational facilities
return on investment. at community colleges?
Kathryn Jo Mannes: Now, more than ever, colleges Kathryn Mannes: We know our younger students
need to align their curriculum planning and communicate instantly and constantly with
development with job preparation and labor each other. The future classroom will be
market expectations. We need to accommodate able to provide access to the best minds in
special populations that are making new the country and the world, with connections
demands on the workplace—veterans, older across communities, regions, and countries
workers, immigrants, etc. One way to level that we only can now imagine. Future learning
the playing field is by using technology to facilities need to support students who
make it increasingly easy for people to learn need it most, with immediate feedback and
when and where they can. encouragement that closes current gaps,
motivates, and inspires.
Andrew Meyer: The classroom of the future PowerPoint from the classroom, videotape or NOTES
will contain the next generation of technologies. podcast lectures for asynchronous delivery,
The problem is we just don’t know what those and use real class time for discussion,
Harry J. Holzer and Robert I. Lerman, The Future
technologies are yet. The future collaborative questioning, exploring, collaborating, of Middle-Skill Jobs. Brookings Foundation,
learning environment will require new and interacting. This gives you a blank Washington, DC, February 2009.
configurations of classroom furniture and slate on which you can design the room to 2
Lucia Mutikani, “So many US manufacturing jobs,
equipment conducive to learners working accommodate these interactive modalities. so few skilled workers,” Reuters, October 13, 2011,
effectively in small groups on applied <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/13/
learning projects and individual Andrew L. Meyer: Community colleges will usa-economy-jobs-idUSN1E79B23O20111013>
assignments while connecting with expand their role into corporate training. (Accessed December 2011).
peers and mentors instantaneously. We all grew up in the days of face-to-face, 3
Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, “How U.S. Lost
seat-time education. To be sure, online Out on iPhone Work,” The New York Times, January
Gerardo de los Santos: The classroom of the learning has grown but the trend to hybrid 22, 2012 < http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/
future may very well be a blended milieu of learning ensures continued use of facilities. business/apple-america-and-a-squeezed-middle-
digital, socially networked communities that How we design and furnish those facilities is class.html > (Accessed January 2012).
take technology to new levels of learning the key to future success.
augmentation, in which the roles of faculty
American Association of Community Colleges, “Fast
CONCLUSION Facts,” 2011, <http://www.aacc.nche.edu/AboutCC/
and students evolve toward different
Pages/fastfacts.aspx> (Accessed December 2011).
approaches to how classroom time is focused
America’s community colleges are providing 5
The College Board, Trends in College Pricing,
and how learning content is delivered. As a
educational service to local citizens and <http://trends.collegeboard.org/college_pricing>
result, students are more likely to take
beyond them, to the United States and the (Accessed December 20 2011).
increased responsibility for their own learning.
world. Today, a modern community college
Ruth Prather: We are already seeing will have the usual classrooms and laboratories,
technology change our learning spaces. At but a visitor will also see learning studios,
our campuses we are using Quick Response art galleries, day care centers, community
(QR) Codes for multiple purposes, many of meeting facilities, corporate training centers,
them instructional. Whatever the trend, our and even the presence of universities offering
facilities will need to be retrofitted to provide graduate programs.
maximum flexibility and comfort. Students
While times and pedagogies will change, these
of the future will use technology intuitively,
facilities will evolve to meet the challenge of
be constantly connected, want experiential
a rapidly changing society. In a sense, the
learning, and won’t relate to the traditional
built environment found at America’s almost
lecture mode. We need to provide facilities
1,200 community and technical colleges will
that match their expectations and abilities.
need to be “future proof”—able to quickly
Classrooms aren’t going away; they’ll evolve
adapt to the learning and training needs of
into a new way to house learning.
their communities. Now more than a century
Herman Miller: You all seem enamored of old, these descendants of the original “junior
technology and what it can do for students college” are the most affordable and accessible
and faculty. But is technology an unmitigated form of higher education in the world, a
good in the community college environment? unique American contribution to the rich
history of higher education, one that ensures
Sandra Gaskin: I am fascinated by the that all have access to the skills training
concept of “teaching naked” (not literally!). needed to be productive citizens.
Teachers remove computers, technology and