Promoting postsecondary education and training; creating the skilled workforce needed to satisfy growing demand.

The Seattle Times editorial board is calling for increased funding for community and technical colleges.

Today’s young people will need a college degree or at least some post-high school training to qualify for the good paying career jobs of the future, from airplane manufacturing to software engineering. Much of that training will happen at the state’s 34 community and technical colleges, which currently educate about 370,000 students.

They cite three funding priorities.

The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has three asks for the Legislature, all aimed at improving college completion. They want faculty pay raises to bring them in line with K-12 public school teachers; expansion statewide of the Guided Pathways student support program; and 5,000 more student slots in high demand fields like nursing, computer science and advanced manufacturing.

When weighed against the positive outcomes, the request is logical and relatively modest, totaling $189 million.

We wrote about the Guided Pathways program last week.

In the Wenatchee World, columnist Kelli Scott digs deeper into issues raised by a guest column from North Central Washington educators. (We linked to that column here.) Scott writes,

While the bulk of the 740,000 jobs that will open in Washington state by 2021 will require education beyond high school — a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, an industry certificate or an apprenticeship — just 37 percent of high school graduates in this part of the state will get such a credential by the time they are 26, the column informed us.

The reality is even more grim for students of color. Just 24 percent of Latino students from North Central Washington in the class of 2015 completed education or training after high school.

Our economy demands more. If we don’t find a way to get more of our kids into some form of education after high school, local employers will be forced to import skilled employees from out of the state or out of the country. And this is not happening in some distant future.

She cites cost concerns.

So, why aren’t more students continuing their education after the twelfth grade? For many, it’s a money issue, Dr. Gene Sharratt told me. He’s one of the authors of the column, the past executive director for the Washington Student Achievement Council, and is currently pushing for expanded access to higher education with the advocacy group College Promise Coalition.

…To get over the cost obstacle and get more kids into college and certification programs, Sharratt and his College Promise Coalition lobby for increased financial aid funding for programs like the State Need Grant (SNG). There are currently 18,000 students who qualify for financial help through the program but receive none because the funds just aren’t there. One of the College Promise Coalition’s goals for the upcoming legislative session is fully funding the SNG.

There’s little question that the jobs are there. The Associated Press reports,

The number of open jobs rose in October to the second-highest on record, evidence that U.S. employers remain determined to hire despite ongoing trade disputes and rocky financial markets.

The National Association of Manufacturers says of that report,

New data out this morning from the Labor Department underlines the severity of the workforce crisis facing manufacturers as job openings in the manufacturing sector jumped to a new all-time high of 522,000 (this October data is up from 485,000 in September). Durable goods firms reported the most job postings in October (332,000) since January 2001, with openings for nondurable goods manufacturers (189,000) also higher for the month. In addition, there were 384,000 hires in October, with 345,000 separations (which include quits, layoffs and retirements). As a result, there was net hiring of 39,000 workers in the manufacturing sector in October, the fastest pace in 14 months.

While the manufacturing sector is doing very well overall—as evidenced by the high optimism levels recorded in recent NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Surveys—the sector also continues to consistently report strong levels of concerns about the difficulties in finding enough skilled workers in the very same surveys. This workforce challenge threatens the future of the industry if left unsolved, which is why so many are working so hard to solve it.

Increased access to affordable, relevant postsecondary education is part of the solution.