Community Colleges Prepare for Alignment with National Trends
Energized by the White House’s recent announcement of the America’s College Promise Proposal, over 600 community college presidents, administrators, instructors and partners assembled in Newport Beach, CA for the American Association of Community Colleges Workforce Development Institute at the end of January. IREC’s Credentialing Program was on hand and met over three days with numerous potential applicants for the IREC credential and workforce development partners at the IREC booth.
IREC CEO/President Jane Weissman presented during the workshop, Community Colleges Educating for and Building a Clean Energy Economy. Participants learned about the rising need for a skilled commercial energy efficiency workforce, and national trends that are driving demand for and highlighting the importance of quality, industry-driven credentials. These trends include an increase in demand for skilled clean energy workers, and a greater focus on program outcomes and assurances that training is market valued.
Hot topics at the conference included the America’s College Promise Proposal, which would make community college tuition-free for certain students. The proposal faces long odds on Capitol Hill, but along with other recent White House announcements, “has had a tremendous impact in casting community colleges in a positive light,” according to David Baime with the American Association of Community Colleges.
The reauthorization of the Higher Education and Perkins Acts are on the radar screen for community colleges, as well as the impending Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). We also noted an uptick in interest in training for solar operations and management, and large scale wind installation and operations.
WIOA emphasizes stakeholder engagement and industry partnerships, which was another pervasive theme of the conference. IREC came prepared to provide counsel to community colleges engaged in the workforce system, particularly around new requirements for performance outcomes. Community colleges and other eligible training providers will be expected to verify that students have had a measurable skills gain and will be required to track student postsecondary credential attainment, as well as institutional efforts to engage industry stakeholders.
Many of the provisions of WIOA are compatible with requirements of the IREC Standards, so we stand ready to assist training institutions and have urged the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to emphasize quality credentials and employer-driven programs over simply counting the number of credentials attained. Further guidance around performance indicators will be issued by DOL this spring, so stay tuned.
IREC friend Roger Ebbage, with Lane Community College, urged his colleagues in attendance at the conference to “be ready for the demand” for clean energy training.
Is your college or training organization leading or ready to meet your community’s needs for clean energy resources and increased resiliency during these turbulent times? Are you prepared with curriculum developed in accordance with IREC and other national industry standards?
Don’t wait for them to ask if you hold the IREC credential and can meet their needs. Consider investing in third-party recognition of your program today to position yourself for future success.