Review of Implementation of Non-Credit Certificate Programs in the Comprehensive Community College Mission

By Wilhelms, Catherine M. | The Catalyst, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview
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Review of Implementation of Non-Credit Certificate Programs in the Comprehensive Community College Mission

Wilhelms, Catherine M., The Catalyst


The implementation of certificate programs in the comprehensive community college was reviewed for this paper. The focus was to examine if , these programs fit within the comprehensive community college mission, determine how workforce and funding promote change, and identify some of the issues and challenges for implementation. The results identified various issues regarding accountability and concerns with verification of competencies, employer's impatience with "academic bias" of education, and faculty acceptance of short-term training. The findings support shortterm certificate programs as part of an integrated "laddering" concept for continued lifelong learning.


Changes in the demand for workforce education and the possible impact on community colleges were also investigated. A report by The Citizens League Committee (1999) warns that if expanding companies are unable to fill key positions, they will be forced to relocate to other parts of the country where states have developed strong workforce-training programs. The skills shortage does not refer only to engineering and computers. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that over half of manufacturers cite the need for a skilled workforce as the most significant barrier to technology adaptation. In the past, manufacturing was the industry that hired people straight out of high school. No two-year degree, certification or license was required just a willingness to work hard (Thomas & Wagner, 2000). A recent study by the National Alliance of Business (1999) notes that the community college student attends our colleges to gain occupational skills, not degrees.

The literature reviews the mission/role of the community college and questions its ability to respond to all community and workforce needs. The new workforce is focused on short-term certificates that have not been traditionally provided by community colleges. Concerns such as quality/accountability, how the community and workforce facilitate change, the issues and challenges for implementation, and what role the state and federal government play in the mission/role of the community college were explored. The following literature review includes the definitions of selected terms specific to credentialing and a brief historical review of community college responses to workforce development in the past five years. The following discussion will demonstrate that certificate programs at community colleges present the obvious solution to employer, citizen, and community concerns about getting and keeping skilled workers.

Response to Needs

Community colleges are not responding to needs, or accepting responsibility (i.e. performing) at the level that community stakeholders perceive that colleges need to in terms of credentials and certifications. Gleazer (1980) notes that one of the biggest problems facing education may be a reluctance (or inability) of people in education to relate on a regular basis with people in business, industry, the unions, and agriculture. He suggests that community colleges need to reach out, go to the people who are unserved, and be more responsive to their education needs. Carter (2001 ) writes that surveys of stakeholders indicate that community colleges are one part of the public educational mix that is viewed favorably. Community colleges are not the only source of trained capable workers. Increasingly firms are turning to other competitors (private training companies, community based organizations) or developing their own training division to meet their needs. Forprofit institutions are rushing to fill this gap. Proprietary schools serve the function of meeting the needs of business and industry, of the community and of adults, ages sixteen and over, who wish to further their education and to learn the skills necessary to enter into a particular career. Because of the recent growth of proprietary schools, they have become extremely competitive with the public community and junior college.

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Review of Implementation of Non-Credit Certificate Programs in the Comprehensive Community College Mission


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