A recent report from the Ford and Irvine foundations shows how community colleges can play a key role in removing economic barriers for America's working poor and unemployed.
Regional community colleges have the best shot of offering a career pathway to those workers who have been displaced because of job losses to Mexico and overseas and to layoffs, because they are closest to the challenges, the report found.
The stakes are high, too.
A 2001 report by the Public Policy Institute of California found that even in an expanding economy, a large percentage of people in entry-level jobs earn wages that are at or below the poverty level.
The target demographic for any career pathways effort at the community college level would target those jobholders as well as welfare recipients, at-risk youth and unemployed workers.
So what's holding back the nation's community colleges? Plenty.
The report points out:
There's an overall absence of any monetary incentive to serve the disadvantaged. The programs to serve this group have a relatively high cost, researchers found, particularly since part-time students usually do not qualify for federal or state financial aid.
Faculty at these community institutions see their role as instructors of college-level material and resist having to deal with students who are not prepared for college-level course work. Usually, a focus on the number of transfers to baccalaureate schools is their measure of success - not job preparedness.
Community colleges are under intense budgetary restraints and creating career pathway initiatives often require new sources of funding, as disadvantaged students need more support than other students.
Even with those challenges, the thrust to develop a career pathway program is not entirely bleak:
Employer partnerships with colleges can provide a range of training opportunities and meet the labor needs of the employers.
Some states, notably California, North Carolina and Washington, offer pools of cash - $50 million in California - training opportunities, literacy efforts and financial assistance to pay for materials.
As the economy retrenches again, community colleges offer the best and first hope for workers who are on the first rung of a career ladder or must find a new ladder altogether.
Sergio Zyman, an advertising swami who pumped up sales at Coca-Cola from 9 billion cases a year to 15 billion cases a year, is coming to town.
Mr. Zyman speaks Oct. 30 at the Montgomery Inn Banquet Center about his process- and profit-based marketing approach.
He says there is only one definition of marketing success:
"Sell more stuff to more people more often for more money."
A native of Mexico City, Mr. Zyman has an executive MBA from Harvard University and has attended graduate schools in London, Paris and Jerusalem.
His work has included tenure with Cincinnati's Procter & Gamble Co. The event is from 8 to 10 a.m. and includes a copy of Mr. Zyman's book The End of Advertising as We Know It. Call 579-3111 to register.
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