Career schools contribute to N.H. economy

A high-quality education doesn’t necessarily mean a degree

The Business and Industry Association, in its Strategic Economic Plan for New Hampshire, recently identified the critical need of providing businesses with access to a trained labor force and the inclusion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education “within all learning institutions” to help solve this issue.

New Hampshire colleges and universities have long been recognized for the important role they play in educating workers vital to the local economy. But there is another critical segment of our higher education system that deserves equal recognition: career schools.

Accredited career schools have a better track record than community colleges, colleges and universities in creating an employable workforce. Career schools focus their curriculum on training students with the skills needed for employment. The result is these programs take less time to complete, cost less and have a job placement rate of over 75 percent.

Two-year community colleges, which ironically were created to train workers, have a placement rate of less than 20 percent after three years.

Unlike colleges and universities, accredited career schools are measured by outputs such as rate of program completions and job placements. In 2012 (the most recent data available), more than 100 New Hampshire career schools trained over 25,000 individuals with skills in demand by businesses – from auto technicians to computer programmers and service technicians to plumbers and electricians.

Career schools must respond to the needs of arguably the toughest and most important accreditor – the employer – if they are to remain a viable educational path to job opportunities.

One example of a successful partnership between education and industry is Universal Technical Institute (UTI), a post-secondary school that prepares students for careers in the transportation and motorsports industries.

UTI is the only vocational school in the U.S. to partner directly with more than 30 manufacturers, allowing it to create innovative and sophisticated education programs in the industries it serves. Local employers also work with the school to help them build their job pipeline and fill positions for qualified, entry-level automotive and diesel technicians.

All of our higher education resources are important as each address the multitude of learning styles and interests that exist in our state. But ultimately New Hampshire needs graduates who are prepared to work. As the BIA plan states, “educators at all levels need to understand the necessary workforce skills and ask themselves how they can most effectively assist businesses in developing them.” At a time when our economy requires greater productivity from all education levels, this is a challenge every educator should strive to meet.

And no educational resource should be ignored. A high-quality education doesn’t necessarily mean a degree. It should mean employability. With student debt rising to record highs and many college graduates struggling to find a job, we need to recognize the value of all educational options.

Peter Koch is executive director of the New Hampshire Council for Professional Education. Chuck Barresi is campus president of Universal Technical Institute in Norwood, Mass. and vice president of operations for the Eastern Region.

Categories: Opinion