BY MYRTLE E.B. DORSEY FROM THE CHAIR We have to dare to make a difference for the students we serve. Now The Time to Innovate Is
Innovation is defined as the introduction of something new—a new idea, method, or device. The introduction of new education, training, and resources have made community colleges go-to destinations for countless tudents in search of better lives and for businesses and industries in search of more capable talent. As community college leaders, we have a unique opportunity to be entrepreneurial and innovative
while producing measurable student outcomes.
But innovation does not happen spontaneously. To keep the wheels of thought
and creativity churning, we have to step back and realistically evaluate our
educational programs (credit and noncredit). We have to constantly benchmark
industry needs. Sometimes this means being bold enough to shutter programs that
are no longer relevant to our students, either for career and/or transfer opportunities. It means updating training programs where industries have changed—and,
ultimately, preparing our
students for the challenges
One of those challenges is
equipping students with the
skills for a changing workforce, especially as the U.S.
economy continues to shift
away from producing goods
toward providing services.
Consider the U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics’ overview of the fastest-growing
professions through 2020.
The top six—personal care aides, home health aides, biomedical engineers, helpers
(bricklayers, masons, tile setters, et cetera), carpenters, and veterinary technolo-gies/technicians—are all predominantly service-oriented pursuits. Community
college education and job-training programs need to move in lockstep with these
institutions. We must continue to demonstrate our value through the introduction
of innovative practices. It’s time to push
the envelope. We have to be courageous as
it relates to new approaches and program
models. We have to dare to make a difference for the students we serve.
A Little Help
The good news: We won’t have to do it alone. President Obama has sought historic
federal support for community colleges. Early this year, he proposed the Community
College to Career Fund, an $8 billion, three-year job-training package to match
students with high-demand careers. Obama also proposed $1 billion for a new Race
to the Top program to support innovations in higher education financing and
degree completion, and an additional $55.5 million for First in the World grants
that would strengthen the nation’s position in the global economy.
Whether these programs win congressional support remains to be seen. But their
very existence, even as proposals, raises the profile and validates the mission of our
Our students do not live life from 9 to
5. Bankers’ hours are no longer a viable
option for community college students. If
we’re to make a difference—to truly ignite
innovation—we have to shed the blinders.
We have to destroy those tired old classroom notes and take a quantum leap.
We have the skills to develop the tools
for a sustainable global economy. But do
we have the will? It’s time we found out.
JASPER WHITE/GETTY IMAGES
MYRTLE E.B. DORSEY is AACC board chair
and chancellor of St. Louis Community
College in St. Louis, Mo.