Career Preparation in the New Economy

Greetings! What a fantastic time to be alive in this wonderful and technologically advanced world! I awake to pleasant alarm sounds each morning, listen to books streamed from the Internet on my way into work, receive and answer sweet texts from my wife during the day, and keep in touch with colleagues, friends and family while traveling in my Bluetooth connected car. I am more productive with my time now than at any other time during my 30-year career.

In order to be successful in today’s competitive world, my skills have evolved from the time that I graduated in 1984 with associates and bachelors degrees, and if I were to be starting my college career over, I would follow a similar path. It was an unconventional one back then, but it prepared me for a dynamic workplace. That same unconventional track, starting with an associate’s degree, may well be the best educational route for many students today.

Recently, a friend emailed me a link to a clever ten-minute video created by Brian Marsh and Kevin Fleming. It was produced for Citrus College in Glendora, California. I think you’ll find it well worth your time (video above).

We all know that higher education is essential for preparing students to enter the workforce of the 21st century, but many of our universities are missing the target.  We need to educate more people in STEM related disciplines, which prepare graduates for today’s jobs. As explained in the video, a study by Harvard shows that by 2018, 33% of all jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or more while 57% of all jobs will require a one-year technical certificate or a two-year associate degree. Fewer than ten percent of jobs will be available for high school graduates and dropouts.

Already, there is high demand for community college graduates and certificate holders, and many of these individuals receive higher quality and better paying jobs than university graduates. Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 is a good example of a bold vision to address the workforce of the future by bringing “the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees or certificates to 55% by 2015.”

We need more students to start at a community college. We need more technician level graduates in health, computers and engineering. Once a student completes technician training, our state higher education system needs to provide pathways for them to complete job-specific bachelor’s degrees without loss of credit. That is why Chattanooga State is pursuing approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents for bachelor’s degrees in the applied sciences that allow logical educational advancement for applied and technical associate program graduates, filling an important gap in our region.

Now is the time for higher education to fully align with the needs of today’s employers.

-Dr. Jim Barrott, Vice President of Technology