ACTC Helps Close the "Skills Gap"

In tough economic times, with many people looking for work, there are still jobs that go unfilled because applicants lack needed skills.

Many of todays jobs require specialized training beyond high school and many job seekers do not have that training. The workforce skills gap has left legions of Americans out of work, companies scrambling to find qualified workers and executives and political leaders fretting openly about a skills crisis, according to an article on Mix and Match in Community College Week.

Ashland Community and Technical College can help students fill that gap - with programs that teach the skills that area employers want.

Health care fields are obvious choices for many people. There will always be a need for health care specialists. Many of those jobs pay better than average wages.

Computer and public service fields are other obvious choices. Computer support jobs have been the fastest growing employment area for more than a decade. Law enforcement officers, fire fighters, teachers and social workers perform vital functions in society. Cooks and cosmetologists offer services that are always in demand.

Not so obvious choices are the manufacturing/industrial fields that involve building, operating, repairing and maintaining the countrys infrastructure from manufacturing plants to cars.

By and large, these fields require postsecondary education, but not a bachelors degree. Preparing for these fields involves hands-on training in state-of-the art technology and equipment, combined with general academic knowledge and experience in teamwork, trouble-shooting and problem solving.

ACTCs technical skills programs include Air Conditioning/HVAC, Chemical or Power Plant Operator, Computer Aided Drafting and Design, Construction, Electrical, Industrial Maintenance, Lineman, Machine Tool, Welding, Auto and Diesel Technologies.

In two years or less, these programs can prepare graduates for jobs paying $15 to $25 per hour (or more). Even better, these programs are in fields that will always be needed in our society and that will continue to have openings in the future as more and more baby boomers retire.

Industry Week reports that in the next five years, 40 percent of the skilled labor force will retire. The people who have the next generation of skills will be in demand to replace them.

Why Technical Skills?

For several decades now, the line has been blurring between white collar jobs in an office and blue collar jobs on the factory floor or in the field.

Even the most hands-on professions, such as building, maintenance and machine operation, require advanced education and specialized skills, according to a Trading Up article in the Community College Journal. Nearly every job category now requires computer skills and knowledge of specific technologies.

As the difference in the amount of required education diminishes, the difference in compensation diminishes. This creates a new opportunity for people who want to provide a good life for themselves and their families while enjoying a hands-on job.

The reality is that technical programs offer rewarding, interesting, long-term opportunities in careers that will continue to grow in demand. They will provide benefits comparable to many of the careers that require a bachelor or higher degree.

College Is For Everyone

Although a four-year college degree is not required for many evolving jobs, some education after high school is needed for most of the jobs in high growth fields.

Two-thirds of all jobs in the future will require at least some postsecondary education, according to a study by The Georgetown Center of Education and the Workforce. And those jobs requiring education after high school are the ones that provide the higher wages and benefits that people want.

According to the Georgetown study, the US will need at least 4.7 million workers with postsecondary certificates by 2018 and at least 3 million more workers with associate or higher college degrees.

Getting ready for the next generation of work requires an updated education that will help people not only use todays technologies but adapt to new technologies as they arise.

Going to work today means getting some sort of credential, according to Jeffrey Selingo, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, "The fact is that a high-school diploma doesn't cut it in this day and age.

ACTC technical courses for electricians, plumbers, diesel mechanics, pipefitters and other skilled professionals keep evolving to keep up with new technologies. Many programs include cooperative education opportunities in which students gain practical work experience while earning college credit.

Students who want to make sure they are prepared for whatever the future may bring can add general education courses to their technical program. This gives them the possibility of later earning a degree that can help them earn promotions or move into management positions.

Fall Application Reminder

August 8 is the application deadline for fall semester classes at ACTC. Admission forms are available on the web at ashland.kctcs.edu. For more information, call Admissions, 606-326-2000.