Community Colleges to Play Key Role in $500M Workforce Initiative

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Good Jobs Challenge includes community colleges in the vast majority of its partnerships.

Published August 12, 2022

Edited by Alex Pasquariello
Community Colleges to Play Key Role in $500M Workforce Initiative
Future of Learning
Photo by Andrew Harrer / Contributor / Bloomberg / Getty Images

  • The $500 million Good Jobs Challenge aims to boost job opportunities for more than 50,000 Americans
  • Community colleges will play a key role in various partnerships as part of the Good Jobs Challenge
  • Some community colleges are leading partnerships to develop workforces in areas like information technology in their region.

Community colleges will have a vital role in workforce training partnerships being launched by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The $500 million Good Jobs Challenge, part of the American Rescue Plan Act, aims to boost workforce development and job opportunities for more than 50,000 Americans, according to a Department of Commerce release. Officials last week announced 32 workforce training partnerships as part of that effort — and community colleges are part of several of those partnerships.

“Workforce development is a critical pillar to supporting innovative and competitive economic development, and the Good Jobs Challenge is working hand-in-hand with diverse partners and local leaders to strengthen local economic recovery and resiliency,” Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said in a statement.

Graves added that The Good Jobs Challenge “prioritizes employer leadership and hiring commitments, which we know are critical to expanding career opportunities for more Americans to reach their full potential and secure good jobs, leading to a stronger regional and national economy.”

Many of the partnerships include community colleges, and four are led by community colleges and organizations:

  • Dallas College in Texas will lead an $8.7 million partnership aimed at developing a biotechnology workforce.
  • The Foundation for California Community Colleges received $21.4 million for a partnership to ramp up forest health and safety training in response to wildfires.
  • Illinois Central College received $14.6 million for a partnership to develop the region’s information technology jobs.
  • Miami Dade College received nearly $10 million, also to develop the information technology workforce.

Community colleges are also set to play a role in partnerships where they aren’t the sole lead organization. For instance, Olive Harvey College in Chicago will head up transportation, distribution and logistics sector partnerships as part of the $18 million Good Jobs Chicago partnership, according to the list of awardees.

“Community colleges serve nearly 40% of the nation’s undergraduates, millions of which are enrolled in career and technical education programs,” Martha Parham, the senior vice president for public relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, said in a statement. “By design, these programs, in partnership with local and regional employers, provide essential skills education that is necessary to fill the workforce pipeline. Harnessing the power of the community college sector and these partnerships to advance a national effort to boost workforce development makes sense and we look to scale these opportunities across the country. “

The 32 projects that received funding as part of the Good Jobs Challenge were selected from a pool of more than 500 applicants, according to the Commerce Department.

The selected partnerships consist of a broad range of organizations in addition to community colleges, including businesses, unions, industry and community groups, according to the release. That array of organizations will help the partnerships “

Tech companies and industry groups have increasingly turned to community colleges for workforce development in recent years, with Microsoft, IBM and Google partnering with community colleges to recruit and train workers in high-demand tech fields.

Federal lawmakers have floated legislation that would invest millions in career training programs at community colleges, and last month a coalition of community college leaders and advocates asked Congress to approve President Joe Biden's budget requests for programs that serve low-income students and assist in workforce development.

While overall enrollment at community colleges continued to decline this spring, a recent National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report found that career-oriented programs saw an enrollment rebound and are now approaching pre-pandemic numbers. Construction, mechanic and repair, precision and production and culinary programs all saw enrollment increases, according to the report.