Learn and Earn

More schools are partnering with the private sector to develop courses and apprenticeship programs

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Which raises yet another, perhaps more surprising problem: few CEOs—or, for that matter, policymakers—went to community colleges, or send their kids there.

“They’re four-year grads. All the people they know are four-year grads. They don’t have experience with community colleges,” said Karen Elzey, director of Skills for America’s Future, a nonprofit that is trying to create a network of partnerships among employers and community colleges.

“We have to get business leaders to pay more attention to the institutions that are going to serve the populations that right now are not reaching the levels of attainment that we need,” said Joseph Minarik, senior vice president of a think tank made up of corporate and university leaders called the Committee for Economic Development.

In a report in April, the American Association of Community Colleges acknowledged shortcomings. “Employers complain about inadequate student preparation for the job market,” the association’s president, Walter Bumphus, conceded and is now prompting community colleges to refocus their attention on providing students with the skills they need for existing and future jobs.It’s a step in the right direction, said Minarik, who was chief economist of the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration.

“Educators understand that the world needs poets,” he said. “Business leaders need to know that, too. And business leaders and educators also need to know that the world needs people who can work with sophisticated control systems on a factory floor.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University. It’s one of a series of reports about workforce development and higher education.

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