An Agenda for Collaborative Action
There are two immediate challenges: first, the need to navigate the short-term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and, second, the compelling demand to imagine a more comprehensive and sustainable long-term future that can meet the unique needs of the state’s residents and employers. Of course, these two concerns ask for an integrated response and purposeful strategies that offer inclusive outcomes. New Jersey’s community colleges are prepared to lead an unprecedented collaborative effort of businesses, state and local government, industry associations, labor unions, community-based organizations, libraries, K-12, and four-year colleges and universities.
To respond to this crisis and to emerge stronger than before, New Jersey’s community colleges believe that New Jersey has an opportunity to take bold steps:
1. Build and Support the Healthcare Workforce
Ensuring a well-trained healthcare workforce is imperative during this public health emergency.
A large number of healthcare workers on the frontlines of this crisis were educated and trained at New Jersey community colleges. As the largest providers of healthcare education, New Jersey community colleges currently educate and train 20,000 individuals/year. New Jersey must ensure that we have an adequate supply of trained healthcare workers, including public health workers and those trained to administer an expanded number of tests and to perform the contact tracing needed to contain this virus.
Establish a “Healthcare Skills and Pathways Collaborative” to develop and implement a coordinated, industry-driven strategy for educating and training the healthcare workforce led by the state’s key healthcare employers and built around partnerships with high schools and four-year colleges and universities.
Partner closely with hospitals and other healthcare providers and businesses to ensure that their workforce
Map and expand pathways from high school to community college to four-year colleges and universities and communicate the pathways clearly to students and adults in need of jobs and new careers.
Identify immediate needs and longer-term investments and implement training and education programs for healthcare occupations.
2. Immediately Assist the Significant Number of Unemployed Residents to Secure New Career Opportunities
Connecting unemployed individuals to jobs and new skills is critically important to the state’s economic recovery.
Build a collaborative effort with community colleges, libraries, community-based organizations, and the state workforce system to build a strong network of organizations able to provide unemployed individuals with the career guidance and information they need to find new careers and jobs.
Implement a retraining and reemployment strategy to deliver effective and efficient training to individuals to help them prepare for new jobs and careers. New Jersey’s community colleges are uniquely positioned to play a foundational role in this effort.
3. Offer Cost Effective and Time Efficient Pathways to Earn a Post- Secondary Degree or Credential for All New Jerseyans
Now more than ever, expanding access to post-secondary education and reducing the cost of a college degree or credential is essential to our state’s economy.
Expand dual enrollment partnerships to allow more high school students to earn college credits.
Develop Bridge programs (while students are in high school) and Launch programs (after students graduate from high school) to strengthen the transition from high school to college.
Make the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) permanent to give all individuals in New Jersey with adjusted gross income less than $65,000/year access to a tuition free college education. Many of the frontline and essential workers in this crisis would qualify for CCOG.
Expand prior learning assessments to allow individuals to earn college credit for work experience and industry-valued credentials.
Expand access to a college education for adults through partnerships with employers.
Strengthen and expand transfer partnerships and pathways with four-year colleges and universities.
4. Provide Workforce Training and Education Programs to Meet Immediate Critical Labor Market Needs
We cannot afford to have a higher education system that is not better connected to current and future job opportunities.
Launch “Pathways and Skills Collaboratives” in key industries, including healthcare, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, technology and other industries to bring together community colleges, high schools, four-year colleges and universities and other partners in an industry-driven effort to support the efforts of workforce training and education programs to better align with the needs of the labor market.
Allow community colleges to offer BAS (Baccalaureate Applied Sciences) degrees to meet critical workforce needs unmet by other colleges and universities.
Emphasize the essential skills of problem solving, critical thinking, communications, and teamwork throughout post-secondary education to ensure that our residents are prepared to adapt to the changes ahead.