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PHCC's goal: Triple credentials awarded

Monday, August 18, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Patrick Henry Community College President Angeline Godwin is embracing Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glenn DuBois’ goal of tripling the number of credentials community colleges award annually by 2021.

That is the single goal of a draft six-year strategic plan for VCCS, according to a speech DuBois gave at the chancellor’s annual planning retreat last week in Glen Allen. Godwin was a member of the VCCS Strategic Planning Taskforce.

By credentials, DuBois said, “We’re talking about associate’s degrees, sub-associate credentials and industry-recognized certifications. We’re also including the bachelor’s degrees our transfer students earn.”

The State Board of Community Colleges is expected to formally vote on the plan early next year and, if approved, it will become the VCCS plan in July 2015, according to Jeffrey J. Kraus, assistant vice chancellor for public relations for Virginia’s Community Colleges.

“We (PHCC) fully intend to triple the number of credentials” awarded by 2021, Godwin said. She envisions the college will build on its strengths in nursing, welding, general engineering technologies, industrial electronics and other areas.

A credential makes a person more attractive to employers and helps her earn more money, Godwin said.

Tripling the number of credentials awarded in Virginia’s Community Colleges “means we will go from 38,000 credentials awarded last year (to) no fewer than 114,000 by the year 2021,” DuBois stated in the speech.

“This means that student success, in the form of credential attainment, will no longer be among our priorities. It becomes the priority,” he said. “Credentials are the alignment Virginia needs. Nothing is more efficient in connecting individuals with knowledge and skills to the in-demand jobs that employers are desperate to fill.”

Three out of four people who enroll in academic programs in Virginia’s Community Colleges “do not earn a credential with us,” DuBois said. “Our non-credit workforce training can lead an individual to more than 400 different industry-recognized certifications. But don’t ask how many people we serve actually earn those credentials. We have no way to know.”

DuBois quoted rating agency Standard & Poor’s as recently saying, “The U.S. economy would grow annually by an additional half a percentage point — or $105 billion — over the next five years, if the average American worker completed just one more year of school.”

DuBois wants to take that a step further. “I don’t want to help people finish just one more year of school. I want to help them earn one more postsecondary credential. In terms of population, Virginia is the nation’s 12th largest state. We currently rank number nine in the nation, however, in terms of people living here who hold an associate’s degree or higher.”

Tripling the number of degrees, certificates and other credentials awarded could place Virginia No. 1 in the nation for credential attainment, he added.

“We know, thanks to Georgetown University research, that two out of every three jobs in Virginia will require more than a high school education before this decade’s through,” DuBois said in his speech. “Yet, when was the last time you saw a job posting seeking candidates with ‘some college’? When was the last time that someone you know scored an interview for a great job because he or she attended — not finished but attended — a college or university?”

Also as part of the chancellor’s leadership retreat, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a work-force initiative in Virginia.

One part of that initiative is: “Pathway to 50K — Virginia will set a goal of attaining 50,000 STEM-H credentials, licenses, apprenticeships and associate degrees that meet the immediate workforce needs during my administration,” according to the governor’s executive order. “Many of these jobs will have high individual wages and bring a substantial return on investment to the gross state product.”

STEM-H refers to science, technology, engineering, math and health.

The executive order states that by Oct. 31, state agencies including the departments of education, aging and rehabilitative services, labor and industry, and social services, as well as Virginia Community College System and local Workforce Investment Boards each must produce a report for the secretary of commerce and trade that will incorporate work-force credential attainment levels from fiscal 2013 and regional business and industry needs.

After reviewing that data, each WIB and agency will establish an annual goal and strategies for the next three years to increase attainment rates and identify barriers to credential attainment to meet the goal of 50,000 credentials. The reports also must identify opportunities to take immediate action for changing state policies, funding or applying for federal waivers to increase credential rates.

In addition, local WIBs must work with local businesses and industry sectors and local community colleges and chambers of commerce to identify and prioritize work-force credentials most in demand by employers in the WIBs’ regions.

Pathway to 50K is “complementary though not necessarily the exact same” as the goal of tripling the number of credentials awarded by Virginia’s Community Colleges by 2021, Kraus said. The goal of tripling credentials awarded is across the board, though there will be a focus on STEM-H, he added.

According to its website, PHCC offers associate of arts and sciences degrees in about 13 areas, associate of applied sciences degrees in about 18 areas, two technical studies programs, certificates in about 12 areas and career studies certificates in about 42 areas.


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