There is an increasing national concern over the gap between existing workforce skills and expanding workplace demands. With changing technology and work organizations, colleges need to do more to equip students with the more sophisticated and higher level skills that today's workplace requires. Educational institutions have been challenged by both public and private industry leaders to increase the educational attainment level of Michigan’s workforce in order to compete in a global economy. A post-secondary degree or certificate is no longer an option—it’s essential.
The District has been pro-active in addressing these concerns by revising its current career programs and expanding its certificate and associate degree career programs. Wayne County Community College District currently offers 47 associate degrees and 49 certificates in career and technical fields. Additionally, WCCCD has taken the lead in developing short term certificate programs targeted specifically toward the dual enrolled student population. This initiative is especially important as it:
- introduces high school students to the college experience.
- provides a “head start” on identifying career options.
- prepares them for entry level work in a “critical career” area such as healthcare.
Why Career Education is Important
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 80% of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States require some college education
- The unemployment, healthcare and welfare systems will all be impacted by these trends
- Career education is viewed as a bridge that helps people to succeed
- The fact that the programs can be offered as either a short term certificate or a degree is key to their effectiveness
- Both credit and non-credit certificate programs can be tailored to meet student needs
- Once students complete a certificate program, it can help the student to develop the confidence to continue on towards the associate degree while they work.
- The K-12 systems in many districts are asking how WCCCD can help (i.e. with preparing students for the workforce).
- The District is strategically integrating credit with noncredit course offerings.
Planning quality programs that reflect current workplace practices and state-of-the-art educational programming is most effective when representatives from business and industry are involved. Wayne County Community College has advisory committees for each of its career programs. Each committee meets a minimum of twice a year, and there is a bi-annual District-wide advisory meeting designed to update the community on our programs as well as provide information that includes program growth, student services, district operations, district facilities, financial information, potential resources, and incentives available that will impact the development and improvement of career programs.
Teaching of Relevant Job Skills
The goal of career education is to prepare students for the workforce. Providing support for our committed, competent and credentialed faculty in career programs assures that the content of the courses relates well to the occupations for which they prepare students. Various procedures exist to ensure a match between course content and career skill requirements:
- professional development for faculty
- industry advisory committees
- surveys of employers
- skill needs assessments
- graduate surveys
- student work experience (e.g. internships)
- Adherence to accreditation standards.
Assessment of Career Programs
As a District we have set in motion several processes for developing clearer and higher standards in career education and increased industry input in the development of those standards. Program Reviews are used to examine the use of skill competencies in career programs. Skill competencies are developed or adopted exclusively by individual course faculty or group(s) of faculty with industry input. For accredited programs competencies are provided by the appropriate accrediting body.
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Current programs have demonstrated that partnerships provide positive results. Partnerships benefit career programs by supporting, developing and enhancing strong relationships between the District and businesses and industry. Over 100 businesses, organizations, nonprofit institutions and healthcare systems support our career programs by providing internships, field placements and clinical affiliations. Additionally, students develop both formal and informal mentoring relationships with professionals from the various entities. Our community partners are making an investment in the future of students by providing them the opportunity to showcase their theoretical knowledge and skills in addition to employing them upon graduation. Examples of our Partners include:
- The Detroit Medical Center
- Henry Ford Health Systems
- Oakwood Health Care Systems
- St. Johns Health Systems
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- UAW Ford Child Development Center
- Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility
- The Guidance Center
- Thea Bowman Community Health Center
- The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries
- Vista Nuevas Head Start
Career credentialing is an official recognition of a process by which an individual meets a set of defined standards, generally through education, training, experience, and testing. It is intended to provide assurance that those credentialed professionals engaged in specific occupations meet acceptable standards of quality and will exhibit competency in their performance on the job. The existence of such standards is considered to be in the best interest of consumers, other practitioners in that profession, individuals in allied professions, and the public. Credentialed individuals are able to bring about a higher level of performance and qualification throughout their chosen profession. The primary types of career credentialing are licensure and certification. WCCCD career programs have consistently met or exceeded state and national pass rates on certification and/or licensing examinations.