One of the biggest news stories of the last year, besides the pandemic, is the shortage of skilled workers who are ready to enter the U.S. job market. With nearly half of American companies saying that they are lacking enough skilled workers to fill current job openings, let alone future needs, the impact on the domestic economy and global competitiveness is keenly felt. To bridge this skills gap and develop a workforce that is ready to fill job vacancies is a matter of ensuring that colleges are ready to educate today’s students.
While preparing students for the workforce is a central tenet of community colleges, many fall short of delivering on the promise. With outdated courseware and labs, it’s difficult for these institutions to keep pace with the rate of change in the IT sector and turnout students who are ready to get to work on day one following graduation. “Traditionally, it’s been difficult for colleges to build the IT teaching expertise in-house, let alone equip a lab that replicates what an IT professional will be working on when on the job” shared RedHat’s Tariq Fazal. “Not only are there significant costs involved in retaining teaching staff, but the industry is constantly adding capabilities, and updating credentials. For a community college to try and stay abreast of these constant changes is a near-impossible task.”
However, by partnering with an industry leader in a technical field, such as open-source software, a college can tap into the expertise needed to create workforce-ready graduates. “By partnering with a leader in the industry, a college is able to access the most current knowledge and build state-of-the-art lab environments that give students invaluable hands-on experiences. It’s these lab experiences, in particular, that translate into being workforce-ready,” explained Fazal.
Today, Fazal and the Red Hat Academy team build curriculum for high schools, community colleges, and universities that bridges the skills gap by addressing business needs in areas such as Linux, automation, cloud, and other emerging technologies. “We start with the foundational skills that are necessary to embark on a thriving IT career,” Fazal shared. “From there we ensure that the college has the support it needs, including updated lab equipment and ongoing instructor development, so that they can deliver the program effectively and make sure that it’s hands-on learning, not just lectures. The last part of the program is ensuring that students validate their knowledge with performance-based certification exams, so they can graduate and enter the job market with tangible proof of their capabilities that mean something in the workplace.”
But it’s not just the students that accrue benefits from this partnership between industry and community colleges. “At a time when the value of a traditional four-year college degree is being questioned by parents and students, being able to graduate students who are ready to walk into high-paying and in-demand careers, with little to no debt is a huge win for technical and community colleges,” Fazal explained. “It’s the perfect opportunity for technical and community colleges to stake their claim, boost their enrollment, and demonstrate their value not only to parents and students, but to the state education departments that fund their operations.”
The shortage of highly-skilled technical talent will only continue to intensify as the economy emerges from the pandemic and every industry – from the public sector to commercial– looks to optimize efficiency and profit by leveraging AI, data, and the cloud. While it may seem like a heavy lift for technical and community colleges to meet this need and fill an important gap in higher education and in workforce development, it’s not daunting once you find the right industry partner.
Ready to get started building the next generation of enterprise-ready talent at your college? You can learn more about RedHat Academy here.