Despite widespread political dyspepsia, economic uncertainty, and the highest ongoing unemployment rate in recent memory, there is reason for optimism on the nation’s community college campuses. In addition to being repeatedly singled out as eco- nomic engines and educational lifelines for millions of Ameri-
cans, our colleges appear to have found another potentially rich sweet
spot: demand for certificate programs and the emergence or resurgence of
The growing popularity of one- and two-year certificates paints a particularly positive picture for community colleges—one that debunks a long-standing perception of
these institutions as an open but revolving door. In “Ticket to Work” (p. 20), education writer Bob Woods examines the findings of a new policy brief from the American
Association of Community Colleges that highlights a substantial spike in students
earning certificates of a year or less. Over the past 20 years, the report says, the
number of students earning credentials—or, in current parlance, “completing”—rose
at almost double the rate of enrollment, with the largest increases in programs such
as health, business/management, and mechanics and repairs. (For the full “The Road
Ahead” report, visit www.aacc.nche.edu/Publications/Briefs/Pages/pb09292011.aspx.)
EXECU TIVE EDITOR Norma Kent
MANAGING EDITOR Corey Murray
ART DIREC TOR Brian Rees
PROJEC T MANAGER Jerry Parks
CONTRIBUTING Myrtle E.B. Dorsey
WRITERS Jack Huck
New and Resurgent Careers
New or resurging industries also augur economic revival. No surprise to those of us
assaulted by a 24/7 menu of online messaging, demand for workers who can navigate
the social media landscape has “gone viral”—up by double digits, according to one
Internet staffing firm. In “The Social Media Network” (p. 24), writer Ellen Ullman
tracks the growing number of programs for social-media-savvy workers, including
those interested in the red-hot mobile messaging niche.
Counter to years of consolidation into big-farm monoliths, agriculture is undergoing
a technological and cultural revolution of its own, says researcher and workforce strategist Stuart Rosenfeld (“From the Ground Up,” p. 30). Changes in consumer lifestyles
and eating habits, along with heightened food security concerns and interest in certain
crops as alternative energy sources, are expanding career fields for a “new generation
of agricultural professionals.” Such professionals will most likely earn their way in
specialized career fields broken out into economic clusters, or integrated food systems.
Near total collapse just a few years ago, the auto industry is also showing signs of
revival, according to Kristin Dziczek, assistant research director for Ann Arbor’s
Center for Automotive Research. Though U.S. automakers are in the black, albeit at much
lower production volumes, hiring is up 11 percent since 2009. With an aging incumbent workforce rapidly reaching retirement age, automakers will be forced to replace
a large chunk of the existing workforce. In “Economic Engines” (p. 36), Dziczek writes
that the next-generation autoworker will be more nimble and expected to multitask.
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A Public Affirmation
Finally, in a rebuttal of critics who natter about the declining ROI of a college education, we have more good news and a public affirmation. In a recent poll conducted
by Gallup and Lumina Foundation (for more, visit www.luminafoundation.org/
newsroom/news_releases/ 2011-08-18.html), seven in 10 Americans said a college
education is essential to personal success and see postsecondary learning as the best
path to getting a good job (“Facts at a Glance,” p. 40).