Career schools can meet employer skills needs now
There is a growing cadre of workers who have been laid off or want to get better paying jobs but lack the skills to advance. These individuals have usually graduated from high school and gone directly into the workforce. They have families, own homes and have a record of showing up for work every day and performing well. Today they find themselves in a difficult situation. They've been laid off through no fault of their own, they can't get another job until they get their skills updated or get new skills for a new career.These people are not interested in going to college and do not have the luxury of time or money required to get a degree -- four-year or two-year. What they need are workplace skills that can be attained in much shorter programs.The problem is the only funding available for these workers is available through the community colleges. The president has promoted "college for everyone" and more recently has proposed more funding for community colleges to do all the worker training. This is both short-sighted and bad policy.Career schools do a better job of upgrading skills, and they do it faster and at less cost than community colleges. More importantly, they meet the needs of individuals who need skills training but not all of the other "Gen Ed" courses that community colleges charge for.The record of community college graduate placement in jobs is a scandal at around 30 percent. Career schools have a job placement rate of better than 70 percent.If there is to be federal funding for worker retraining, the best way to administer that funding is to block-grant funds to states based on unemployment numbers and then allow the states to establish a process for applying for the funds by individuals who need skill training. Individuals receiving the funds would then decide where to get the training they need. This would create a marketplace for education and introduce competition and better quality everywhere.We need to address the skills needs of our employers now. But we do not need another federally run program from Washington. We need to empower the individuals needing the training to decide where that training should take place and provide some of the funds needed to gain those skills.This will provide a much fairer system for all. It is about time for government to stop running education and selecting winners and losers as education providers.Peter T. Koch is executive director of the New Hampshire Council for Professional Education.