Community Colleges Key to Worker Shortage

By Board, the Th | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), January 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

Community Colleges Key to Worker Shortage


Board, the Th, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


where we stand More funding from the state will help community colleges -- and so would more support from citizens.

Legislators hear from constituents about a variety of issues. What they are hearing about jobs might surprise some people.

In a TH Editorial Board meeting last week, three Iowa House Republicans - Steve Lukan, of New Vienna; Lee Hein, of Monticello; and Brian Moore, of Zwingle - were asked what they are hearing from constituents about jobs and unemployment.

Lukan said the bigger clamor is not coming from job-seekers as much as the business sector. Many companies struggle to find skilled workers. Meanwhile, thousands of tri-state residents are unemployed or underemployed. There is always that gap, but it can be narrowed if people needing jobs gain the skills necessary to qualify for the jobs available.

One institution can play a pivotal role in bridging those gaps: the community college. The tri-state area is fortunate to have quality community colleges, but they need help.

Liang Chee Wee, the new president of Northeast Iowa Community College, also visited with the TH Editorial Board last week, and perhaps meetings with him and with the legislators brought into clearer focus the contributions of NICC and how it is positioned to address needs mentioned by the lawmakers.

Wee became NICC president in October after four years as its Calmar Campus provost. He has a clear vision of the community college's role and potential. As he said last week, "Iowa doesn't have a jobs shortage, we have a skilled worker shortage."

If the college knows that, and the lawmakers know that, it makes sense the governor and Legislature would provide community colleges the financial support necessary to create and bolster programs to train and produce skilled workers.

However, things that actually occur in government don't always make sense.

Wee notes that his college is operating at 2006 funding levels, but it has worked hard to improve efficiencies while maintaining educational quality.

But with enrollments growing and the demand increasing for more training for 21st century jobs, community colleges cannot cut their way to success. Somewhere in this process, state government needs to take a closer look at what it can do for community colleges as they strive to fulfill their mission. …

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