Community Colleges and Industry: How Partnerships Address the Skills Gap
A 1977 amendment to the Federal Reserve Act created what is now commonly referred to as the Fed’s dual mandate to promote price stability (i.e., stable inflation) and maintain the “maximum level of employment.” Much attention has focused more recently on the latter as the Fed has moved the topic of employment into its monetary policy discussions more than in the past. “Maximum employment” is explained in part in a press release from the Board of Governors on January 25, 2012: “The maximum level of employment is largely determined by nonmonetary factors that affect the structure and dynamics of the labor market. These factors may change over time and may not be directly measurable.”
The vast majority of the nation’s workers do not hold undergraduate degrees, and non-degreed workers with outdated or lower skills are currently experiencing higher rates of joblessness. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics for 2011 (most recent available) indicate that 28 percent of the nation’s population 25 years of age and older hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Further, their data show a 64 percent increase from 2002 to 2012 among sub-baccalaureate workers earning certification or licensure at a community or four-year college. U.S. Census data, which employs somewhat different measures and thresholds, indicate the percentage of the population with at least a high school degree has been increasing since 1970, as has the percentage of the population with post high school education (if not a four-year degree). During that time, the percentage of people with some college or a college diploma increased 160 percent. While these trends are encouraging, demands in the labor marketplace for technically skilled workers reinforce the value of investment in skills training. Community colleges are working, often with active participation and input from major employers, to train workers in the skills they need.