From the national to local level, we need to train more people for jobs that require more than a high school education, but not a four-year college degree. These are the biomedical technicians fixing diagnostic equipment at your hospital; the computer support specialists keeping your company’s IT infrastructure fast and secure; the master electricians and HVAC experts outfitting your home and office; and the automotive technicians using complex software to diagnose and repair your car.
From the national to local level, we need to train more people for jobs that require more than a high school education, but not a four-year college degree.
These jobs will drive the economy. In 2012, jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree made up 46% of the labor market and are projected to remain at this level through 2020. However, only 37% of the population holds the appropriate training to fill these positions. This is the “skills gap” often mentioned by media and politicians.
Some traditional two-year colleges have started to launch training programs and associate degree programs in high-demand technology industries. These are indeed an important piece to the puzzle. However, it’s not enough to simply offer these career pathways or to make them less expensive.
The critical part is making sure students complete their degree or certificate and get a job. Often, the students that stand to most benefit from these technical programs also face academic, financial, and personal obstacles to finishing a degree. Many graduate from high school with math and reading skills not yet at college level. It’s imperative to offer developmental coursework, small learning environments, and personalized advising.
At Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, we take a personalized and comprehensive approach to technical training. Students are thoroughly assessed for strengths and challenges. Based on that assessment, they are placed at an appropriate starting point. Some immediately begin their majors, others enter an intensive developmental semester to improve their academic skills as well as their personal success skills so they are fully prepared to thrive in college.
These students then have the opportunity to participate in a special, free summer program, the Third Semester, so they catch up with their student cohort and enter their second-year on pace to graduate on time. Students also have access to academic success coaches that serve as connectors to campus resources like free tutoring.
Career-oriented education has the potential to lift individuals out of poverty and strengthen communities.
The impact is outstanding: BFIT’s graduation rate is nearly triple the rate of other two-year colleges in Massachusetts, and we are still improving. Our students earn higher salaries, on average, than others who enroll in two-year colleges in the Boston area (excluding nursing). We are excited to be a leader in the movement to offer innovative career-oriented education, which has the potential to lift individuals out of poverty and strengthen communities.
Programs that prepare people for technology jobs are a critical component of the country's education system, one that has been devalued at times, but is quickly gaining recognition as a direct and efficient path to a rewarding career and family-sustaining income. Policies and programs that expand this sort of skilled job training do not limit the options available to the local workforce. Instead they create pathways for a large percentage of high school graduates and current workers to improve their earning potential, support their families and communities, and fill the demands of the economy.