Community Colleges Filling STEM Pipeline

Employers have jobs available and they are looking for candidates with STEM skills to fill positions. Community Colleges are working to train students with skill sets to meet the growing need. Community colleges are playing an increasingly important role in providing students the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills they need for the thousands of jobs employers are having a hard time filling.

Some of the jobs employers need to fill did not even exist ten years ago, as Francis deSouza, president and CEO of Illumina explained at the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference in 2016. deSouza needed specialists in biomanufacturing -- an emerging field so new that few colleges offer degrees in it. In fields such as biomanufacturing, not many degrees are not presently offered.

U.S. News reports that to "fill the jobs company partnered with local community colleges to design a specific curriculum and offer students a bachelor's degree in biomanufacturing.

The Community College Review reports that CCs are educating 40% of all undergraduates students throughout the country. And, it makes perfect sense that as companies "are beginning to require more technological know-how even from their entry-level employees that community colleges are increasingly focusing on helping students who aren't planning to get four-year degrees, and instead are looking for two-year and other certificates programs.

Debra Reed, chairman, president and CEO of Sempra Energy.explains that ""Our jobs require much more technical know-how than ever," she said. "Everything is linked in with an automated grid system. We really need people from high school who are not college bound but have the skills."

The urgent need to educate students to the kinds of STEM jobs available was voiced by Albert Pisano, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego who posed the question, if students don't know what types of STEM jobs are available to them, how will they ever know to choose a STEM field of study?

Pisano said states should think about designing STEM internship programs that could potentially grow into a national STEM internship program in order to introduce to students at a young age the various types of careers available.

Again, Community Colleges are working to help meet the need. Many of the colleges are offering Bridge Programs where high school students receive support, preparation, and in some case take courses that they receive college entrance credit for.

Bridge programs can help student make a successful transition to college, while helping you refresh your skills for degree programs. Students in bridge programs complete the same required program coursework while receiving extra support in these pathway options.

The University of California, San Diego, Pisano said, runs a program called COSMOS, where a students just finishing their junior year in high school can live on campus and take a mock semester, just as if they were enrolled there.

The report, conducted by Lauren Camera, an education reporter at U.S. News & World Report, was originally published May 27, 2017.

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