More Alignment Between Education And Workforce Needed, Says Panel

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More Alignment Between Education And Workforce Needed, Says Panel

Sep 12, 2011

Posted by Sung Yoo – On September 8th, the U.S. House Committee on Small Business held a hearing to discuss meeting the workforce needs of small businesses, in particular the role of industry-led certification programs pushed by manufacturing and technology groups.

According to Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), although the economy remains in a recession and more than 14 million Americans are without jobs, many small businesses are reporting difficulty finding new workers with the knowledge and skills necessary for even entry-level positions. He added that more than 33 percent of small firms report vacancies that remain unfilled due to the lack of qualified candidates.

Jennifer McNelly, Senior Vice President of The Manufacturing Institute, said the country’s education system must become more aligned with the economy to better prepare students for the future, and that a certification program her group designed can serve as a model.

“The only way to address the challenge is to align education, economic development, workforce and business agendas so they work in concert to develop the talent necessary for business success,” McNelly said.

Dr. Scott Ralls, President of the North Carolina Community College System, said that since the recession began three years ago, total enrollment at North Carolina community colleges has surged by 28 percent. Meeting this increased demand for education has presented more opportunities for innovation in the education sector, he added.

“Industry certifications help us innovate to address efficiency challenges,” Ralls said. “Community colleges often partner with businesses to address their workforce skills… however, when employers collaborate to clearly define their skill targets, it provides us with a clear target to focus our efforts and a framework to work across multiple degrees and training programs."

Scott Watkins, the owner of Modern Tech Squad, told the committee that his father and brother were able to transition from the depressed construction industry to the I.T. industry by participating in an industry-developed certification program. Furthermore, because the certification process is so rigorous, it provides not only benefits for small businesses, but also to consumers who benefit from higher quality technicians.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), however, said many people in the country are overloaded with college and education-related debt yet are still unable to find jobs. She, along with Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), said more should be done to assess student's success and placement rates upon taking industry-led certification programs to ensure the programs are having their desired effect.

At the NASE, we understand the importance of continuing education and training programs that may help our members grow their businesses. That's why we offer the NASE Succeed Scholarship™ program, which awards qualified NASE Members up to $4,000 for that purpose.

Feel free to comment below or reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook if you have any thoughts about continuing education and training issues. We look forward to hearing from you!

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