Posted on Monday, December 1, 2014

Among the discussions that took place at the Annual Meeting of the Virginia Community College System was a panel discussion on what Virginia – and higher education – needs to do to boost employability  of its citizens, and help meet the goal of tripling the attainment of credentials in both credit and noncredit areas.

“This is the issue of our time,” said Rob Shinn, former chair of the State Board and partner in the governmental relations firm Capital Results. “Automation is changing our world – credentials are the ticket to the future for the middle class.”

Panelist Bill Murray, managing director for public policy at Dominion and a member of the board of State Council of Higher Education, said community colleges have a continuing role to play in a world where many tradesmen, such as plumbers, can make in the $70,000s as an annual salary. He said  the relationship between community colleges and four year colleges should remain fluid, and allow for “reverse transfer” for those who obtain a four-year degree, and then go to a community college for an additional credential for additional workplace skills.

John Tyler Community College President Ted Raspiller said the model where students are prepared in college for one career is obsolete. Students coming out of high school today, he said, are going to have 22 jobs – representing nine different careers. 

More emphasis on noncredit workforce credentials might require more funding. It’s a key differentiator between Virginia and some of its neighboring states, said Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development Craig Herndon. “Nineteen states do” offer funding support for noncredit credentials through community colleges, including Virginia’s immediate neighbors of North Carolina and Maryland. 

 Advocating for additional funding for workforce credentials may become part of an overall advocacy campaign Shinn’s firm is set to help Virginia’s Community Colleges with in 2015.

“This was a good discussion,” commented Carol Scheid, a board member from Thomas Nelson Community College. “But the key is the definitions of the credentials. We have to carefully define them so they mean something.”

Caption for photo above:  Panelists (left to right) Ted Raspiller, Craig Herndon, moderator Ellen Davenport, Rob Shinn and Bill Murray.'

Susan Hayden

Susan Hayden worked for Virginia's Community Colleges for 25 years in the Institutional Advancement office before retiring in December 2015. She currently is on special assignment regarding the 50th anniversary of Virginia's Community Colleges.

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