Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Emerging Workforce Trends and Issues Impacting the Virginia Community College System

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Emerging Workforce Trends and Issues Impacting the Virginia Community College System

Article excerpt

The mission of community college workforce development leaders is to provide skill training in emerging high growth occupational areas supporting economic growth and changing workforce needs. This article reports the findings from all Virginia Community College workforce development leaders to identify the emerging workforce trends and issues impacting the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). The research questions focused on emerging high-demand occupational workforce skill needs and the partnerships needed to develop resources for emerging industries and technologies. The survey data show healthcare and technology skill training as the highest in-demand based occupational needs. Strong college and industry collaborative efforts were reported as necessary to provide training that increases competitive employee skills. The gap between reflection and action must be removed to provide real-world, innovative resources to training services that contribute to a skilled competitive workforce and economic progress.

In the past decade, multiple studies (Cohen «Sc Brawer, 2003; Kasper, 2002; Mangum, 2008; Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, 2008) have been conducted on the future characteristics and needs of the American workforce. The U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) commissioned a study by the RAND Corporation in 2004 that projected shifting trends that would create a need for many different types of workplace skills (Karoly & Partis, 2004). The shifts and changes largely due to advances in technology have proven true, but these have developed more rapidly than predicted. The emerging workforce trends evolved so quickly that in 2008, Columbia University's Community College Research Center undertook a study focused on noncredit workforce education and contract training that questioned whether community colleges were meeting the changing workforce needs (VanNoy, Jacobs, Korey, Bailey, & Hughes, 2008). Given the historical mission of the workforce development services of community colleges as one of providing services that meet the job skill needs of diverse employers and their employees in many different regions (Cohen «Sc Brawer, 2003), it is important for community colleges to remain true to their role.

Community colleges in America have continuously met demographic, economic, political, and cultural challenges. The nation's community college workforce development leaders, including those of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), now find themselves at a monumental intersection facing major economic and technological challenges (Mangum, 2008). Across the nation, community colleges are strategically placed in rural, suburban, and urban areas that range in size from small local communities to large cities, enabling the colleges to provide access to services that enhance the economic viability of their regions. The diverse societal characteristics and demographics that exist in the nation are prevalent in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where there is a rich 40-year history of 23 community colleges combined under one governing organization, the VCCS.

This article presents the results of a survey of the 22 VCCS workforce development leaders in Virginia. These leaders are the Vice Presidents and Directors who make up the Chancellor's Advisory Board for community college workforce development in Virginia. The study's goal was to identify the emerging workforce trends and issues impacting the Workforce Development Services within the VCCS. The two research questions addressed in this article are:

* What are the emerging high-demand occupational workforce skill needs in economically vital sectors of the economy in the Virginia Community College System Workforce Development Services areas?

* What partnerships are needed to maintain and further develop resources and professional development opportunities for emerging industries and technologies?

Because of the diversity in size, culture, geography, and people served by the VCCS, the study's results allow for a broad scope of application during a time of high-paced technological changes, far-reaching economic global issues, increased workplace diversity, and marketplace shifts from integration to specialization (Karoly & Panis, 2004). …

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