On May 29, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) hosted an event, “Good Jobs without a Bachelor's Degree?” moderated by Amy Goldstein, staff writer at The Washington Post. The event featured a panel of higher education and workforce experts, including William H. Gary, Sr., vice president of workforce development at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA); Harry Holzer, AIR institute fellow and professor of public policy at Georgetown University; Demetra Nightingale, chief evaluation officer at the U.S. Department of Labor; and Dwayne Norris, vice president of the Workforce Program at AIR. The panelists discussed the types of jobs available to workers that do not require a Bachelor’s degree, as well as the skills needed to succeed in these industries. Presenters focused on the importance of partnerships, job training programs, and successfully connecting workers with employers.
Following an overview of the current state of employment in the United States, Holzer discussed the existing labor market “mismatch” between skills desired by employers and those possessed by workers in the market. He pointed out that many fields, such as health; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); manufacturing; and construction, have sizeable amounts of jobs that require the skills taught in two-year or community college programs rather than traditional four-year programs. In addressing this skills gap, Norris recommended that policy makers and practitioners focus on building a pipeline to connect individuals into these jobs and getting them there with the appropriate skills.
Nightingale explained that a large part of the Department of Labor’s mission is to ensure that everyone has a job. To achieve this, the Department focuses on three types of workers: the long term unemployed, discounted workers, and new and future workers. According to Nightingale, the Department is dedicated to improving transitions from high school to career by supporting work-based training such as apprenticeships, contextual learning, and increasing the amount of cross-departmental projects and initiatives .
Drawing from his experiences at NOVA, Gary spoke about the importance of community partnerships, saying that community colleges cannot operate in a vacuum, and that colleges should not wait for partnerships to come to them but rather seek them proactively. NOVA works specifically with the industries of health care, hospitality, and community development to prepare students with skills employers are looking for, such as computer and language skills. Their partnerships and workforce development include small businesses, corporations, and military. The school offers Marines advanced credit for their training to encourage pursuing their education and ease their transition into workforce once they leave the military.