Hot Majors at Community Colleges
The CEW report also listed some fields with virtually no unemployment: geological and geophysical engineering; military technologies; pharmacology and student counseling.
Back To School
Traditional students aside, higher education today is awash with workers who’ve lost their jobs, many after decades of steady employment.
Many have gone back to school to update skills or learn new ones. Many more have little idea what to study; they only know they need lasting employment with some assurance of not landing back on the street again.
"In the last two years, we’ve deliberately focused on developing educational training opportunities for dislocated workers,” says Jim Shanahan, director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at Lorain County Community College in northeastern Ohio. “Thousands upon thousands have hit the streets from every walk of life.”
Community colleges tend to be very responsive to prominent industries in the local communities they serve, offering “lots of industry-specific certifications,” said AACC’s Kent. “Some students are on the margins, they can’t afford even two years in school. Typically , we will take those people and help them do a self-assessment, find out what experiential things could apply to a new career.”
Shanahan works with his region’s major employers as well as five other nearby colleges.
“We connect the students we prepare for the jobs (employers) have,” he says. “We’ve enabled large numbers of people to get credit for one- or two-year certification programs. They have a limited amount of time before they have to be back working full time. We’ve had great success with people who’ve spent maybe 20 years in banking, energy or construction who need to get into something else.”
Picking a major is not the answer, he added. “Picking out what you want to do with your life is the answer. We spend a great deal of effort helping them pick a career that will help them find a job in the region.”
And while a job in the region may be ideal, it may not be practical, said Greg Flores, director of Portland State University's Career Center.
“Our message has been that students need to work harder and look further away, certainly a further commute and possible relocate to a different metro area,” Flores says.
“These days, we tell our students that their job is finding a job,” Flores adds. “Some who are forced to make a career change are forced into a situation where they are looking to pay the mortgage, rather than looking for the best fit.”
Flores is spending more time with area employers, trying to get them to show up again at the school’s job fairs.
“Employers don’t really have to do that much extra outreach these days, they get enough applications on their own,” he says.
For displaced workers considering a post-graduate degree, Georgetown’s Strohl could not be more supportive.
“Without a doubt it is worth going back to grad school,” he said. “We calculate it will bring an average 18 percent pay boost. Enhancing one’s skills generally makes sense in or out of a recession.”