Community and Technical Colleges Tweak Programs to Meet Labor Demand

How do community and technical colleges decide what programs to offer to meet the labor market’s needs most effectively? Two college presidents recently offered their insights in MinnPost.

Rich Wagner, Dunwoody College of Technology president, and Rassoul Dastmozd, St. Paul College president, both say that their institutions have strong connections with public schools, employers, and community partners. But they also watch the labor market closely themselves and tweak their programs to prepare students for the jobs of the future. For example, at Dunwoody,

once an area of need is identified…, administrators then organize a group of employers and educators from the industry to find out more about employers’ needs. From there, the school designs the program, creating a pipeline from the classroom to the workforce.

Such a process resulted in a new program, facilities management, which Dunwoody has recently created. The program is for individuals seeking to learn the ropes to manage and maintain buildings, a post that requires administrative skills as well as knowledge of mechanical and electrical systems.

St. Paul College’s Dastmozd adds this:

“We just cannot simply decide one morning that we’re going to offer a program…. We have to go through a labor demand analysis and need-based analysis in the community.”

These analyses, [MinnPost explains], include looking into the industries’…relevance in the labor market as well as the kinds of wages and benefits they offer.

Emma Corrie, strategic workforce initiatives director for Gov. Mark Dayton’s office, says she is concerned that community and technical colleges are not attuned to the needs of public sector employees. “Community colleges must keep in mind that…the government sector is a huge, huge employer,” she told MinnPost. Specifically,

Community and technical colleges, she said, aren’t often involved in the state’s strategic initiatives meant to recruit targeted populations to state jobs….

One way to fix that problem, she said, is to forge a consistent collaboration between community organizations, technical colleges and public and private employers.

This collaboration would have several benefits, Corrie explained:

First, nonprofit organizations would recruit students and offer them basic workforce skills—like proper communications, time management and teamwork—and prepare them for college. Then, colleges would take them in to offer the education and credentials required to perform a certain job.

Meanwhile, Corrie added, the state government would get involved in these college’s curriculum formation processes, help them get training equipment and provide students with paid internships.

“If you think about the Department of Transportation, it’s an agency of 5,000 people,” she said. “More than 50 percent of those jobs do not require a four-year degree. A lot of people don’t know that. So technical colleges have a great role to play in government jobs at all levels.”