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Community colleges at the center of retraining

March 30, 2009 by Joshua Wright

An article last week in Community College Times illustrates the important role that two-year colleges play in helping give regional economies a much-needed boost. By furnishing skilled workers in a timely fashion, community and technical colleges are “incredibly important economic engines,” according to Karen Elzey of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce.

Here’s an excerpt from the article, which cites a very recent return-on-investment study done by EMSI on two-year colleges in Washington state.

At a time when the economy is lumbering along like a rusted bucket of bolts, community colleges are rushing to provide workers with technical skills demanded by established and emerging industries that are poised for growth, among them health information technology, energy, transportation, advanced manufacturing and green jobs. Regions that in the past might have hawked tax breaks, the ready availability of inexpensive labor and other financial incentives to recruit companies are seeking a competitive advantage by touting the training capacity of their community colleges.

A growing number of community colleges are compiling reports to show their impact on local and state economies. A new Washington Trustees Association for Community and Technical College report shows a demand for workforce training programs even during the current economic downturn. Washington state will need 32,965 more workers with one or two years of postsecondary training by 2012, for jobs such as surgical technicians, welders, auto mechanics, dental hygienists and accounting technicians.

The report by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. also gives details on investment returns. Taxpayers get a 7 percent long-term return on investment in Washington’s community and technical colleges—a much higher return than most publicly funded investments, the report said. Community college students see a 43 percent return on investment, it noted.

For a case study on the Washington ROI report, click here.

Joshua Wright

Reach out at jwright@economicmodeling.com

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