Art Bilger: Community colleges offer best solution for job creation

Writing for CNBC, WorkingNation founder and CEO Art Bilger says states which neglect community college funding do so at their own peril.
Art Bilger

When it comes to creating jobs for the new economy, look toward community colleges to provide skilled workers to fill them, writes WorkingNation founder and CEO Art Bilger for CNBC.

Bilger, a featured writer for the network’s “America’s Top States for Business” series, said states are taking another look at how their community colleges address the skills gap. By aligning with local employers, community college are creating training programs which help new and mid-career workers adapt to changing workforce demands.

“Too many businesses today are unable to fill open, well-paying jobs. In fact, there are 2 million job openings in manufacturing alone that can’t be filled because employers can’t find workers with the skills to do them,” Bilger says.

Though states like New York and California are leading the way in community college workforce training, Bilger says that other states are cutting budgets and neglecting a valuable resource. These states are at risk for higher structural unemployment as they cannot offer employers a skilled labor force, which is increasingly in demand.

And as more mid-career workers are finding themselves out of work, getting them back to work will be more important than ever.

“Mid-career retraining will be a fact of life for most workers. It won’t just be about how much states spend on education, but how much they spend on tailored training and retraining programs to develop a sustainable pipeline of adaptable workers,” Bilger says.

Bilger notes that when community colleges are aligned with employers in creating this pipeline, they create an ecosystem that retains talented workers in manufacturing towns and high-skilled metro areas alike.

For example, General Electric is an industry leader in maintaining its workforce through active partnerships with community colleges in Kentucky, New Hampshire and North Carolina. Other success stories can be found in Minnesota and Colorado, Bilger says, because these states are innovating new techniques to better align with their local industries.

“Employers are the best source of real-time data on local, in-demand occupations. They have the ability — and we believe the responsibility — to partner with local community colleges to create and maintain a healthy talent pool,” Bilger says.

More Highlights:

  • Bilger says that more states need to take Tennessee’s lead and make two-year community colleges and technical schools tuition-free.
  • Analyzing and using data, Bilger says, will be key for states, like New York, which seek to predict regional changes in employment.
  • Large-scale manufacturers aren’t the only beneficiaries of a closed-loop system containing employers and community colleges, medium skill and high skill industries can profit from these partnerships too.

To read more from Art’s column, click here.