Educating and Growing WV's Workforce
Master Plan 2015-2020
Student success continues to be a primary focus of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System institutions. Students enter community and technical colleges for a variety of reasons and with a variety of goals. For some, the goal is to pursue a particular career field and earn a credential in the form of a skill set certificate, a certificate degree or an associate degree. For others, their intent is to complete some college credit and then transfer to a four-year institution to complete a degree. However, in many cases, students enroll in a community and technical college without any clear educational goal.
Student success research indicates that students who complete at least one full year of education and earn a credential are far more likely to succeed economically. It is also evident from the research that students who are required to spend several semesters in developmental education without earning college credit are highly unlikely to attain a credential. According to 2013 data from Complete College America, 69.8 percent of freshmen entering community colleges in West Virginia require remediation. Of all students, only 10.4 percent of them graduate with a credential within three years. Efforts by the nine community and technical colleges in West Virginia to assist students in successfully completing college-level mathematics and English courses in their first year and increasing the number who go on to complete a college credential are having a positive impact. It is essential that this progress continue with even greater emphasis and support over the next five years.
Since the creation of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System in 2004, its member institutions have made dramatic strides in meeting the immediate workforce needs of employers. These efforts are clearly evident in the data collected each year and reported through the Workforce Development Reporting Matrix. Over the four year period of 2010 – 2014, these institutions have delivered approximately 3.5 million hours of training; awarded 12,460 career-technical certificate and associate degrees along with an additional 38,313 career-technical skill set certificates; and served over 700 employers.
As impressive as these numbers are, businesses still cannot find enough employees with the right knowledge, skills, and training to fill critical jobs. The December 2014 Report Closing America’s Skills Gap – a Business Roundtable Vision and Action Plan, states that “a new vision – along with concerted action – to close the skills gap, enhance education and training opportunities for America’s workers, and return our economy to its full promise” is required. Cited as one of the major contributors to the “skills gap” problem is that workers with good fundamental skills “lack the specialized training needed to fill certain high demand occupations such as advanced welders or energy services technicians.”
Due to the growing skills gap in our own state, it is essential that the institutions of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System understand the job needs in each service district and focus efforts on helping students acquire the skills required to fill those jobs. To do so, CTCS must continue to strengthen its capacity to develop a competitive workforce that meets the needs of current and future West Virginia businesses.
Completion of college credentials is not possible for any student unless he or she is able, both financially and geographically, to access the requisite college programs and services to be successful. Although completion of college credentials by more students remains a primary focus, community and technical colleges must continue to provide open access to education and training opportunities and ensure these opportunities are affordable to all. Unfortunately, many West Virginians, particularly adults, encounter a number of barriers that hinder them from accessing post-secondary education.
According to the Lumina Foundation, the most common barriers are unmet financial need, inadequate academic preparation, and insufficient information, guidance, and encouragement. It is the continuing goal of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System to ensure both economic and geographic access for all students.
To produce more graduates with the general education and workplace skills required for the jobs of the 21st Century economy, and to assist in creating opportunities for economic growth in the state, West Virginia’s community and technical colleges must develop strategies that garner additional financial support from both public and private sources. However, it is just as essential that CTCS institutions strive to operate more efficiently and make better use of existing resources during these uncertain economic times. If students are to be served more effectively, resulting in more students completing college credentials, both additional resources and more efficient operations will be required.