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New Model of Career and Technical Education Aims to Bridge the Skills Gap

November 02, 2017

By Peter J. Taylor, Savoy Magazine

The health of the American economy today offers a mixed-read. From the outside, it looks positive: a 16-year low unemployment rate and continued job growth indicate a strong economy. While the recession is over, not everyone is happy.

Among the less-thrilled are employers across all industries, which are finding it difficult to find workers with the right skill and talent to fill key positions. The problem is known as the “skills gap”—a mismatch between skills the workforce has to offer and skills businesses need.

In fact, of the six million jobs that are currently available, nearly half are middle-skill jobs, which require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree, according to latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor. Among them are “new collar” careers in the IT and health care industries, which are rapidly emerging because of evolving technology, data science and cloud computing.

Businesses, both big and small, are concerned. Addressing the skills gap takes a collective effort from everyone in the community, including career and technical education (CTE) institutions. Yet, when it comes to preparing the American workforce to meet business demand, there is a prevailing belief among American families that the only education that matters is one that leads to a four-year degree.

We can no longer afford this misconception to continue. The stigma against CTE harms both the American workforce and the future of our country’s economy. CTE is and should be considered a viable option for careers that pay family-sustaining wages. The misconception was partially created by for-profit players in this space, which for so long got away with delivering subpar education at the expense of students’ futures. It’s no wonder the stigma persists.

Altierus Career College (Altierus) is working to change the narrative. Altierus is a nonprofit career school that provides affordable, quality, student-centered training that puts student success at the center of everything. Its curriculum offerings, career placement services and student support enable students to succeed in the classroom and on the job.

A grantee partner aligned with ECMC Foundation’s mission, Altierus provides a pathway to career success for all students, especially those who are from underserved populations, including students of color, low-income students and those who are first in their family to continue their education beyond high school. The majority of its student population are Black and Latino/Hispanic and many receive Pell grants and other financial assistance. As part of Altierus’ commitment to increase educational access, it provides generous scholarship and grant programs to address unmet financial need.

Many Altierus students are “new-traditional”—over the age of 25, working full-time and often supporting families. Because many need additional support and flexibility, the school offers individualized student attention through academic counseling, tutoring and remedial educational services, as well as career counseling to promote gainful employment after graduation.

Students are the focal point of everything Altierus does, and success is measured by the number of skills earned by students, interviews scheduled and doors opened.

Organizations like Altierus are working to bridge the skills gap and make a difference in the lives of their students now and into the future.

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