Sybil Low by Sybil Low
How Community Colleges are Filling Labor Gaps

Community colleges across the United States are recognizing and responding to a growing need for skilled labour. The Hechinger Report tells the story of Edward Cavaciuti, a former DJ from Delaware, who was forced to find new employment due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Key Takeaways

  • Community colleges are increasingly offering short-term, less expensive certificate programs to train students for “middle-skill” jobs, bridging labour gaps and providing sustainable employment.
  • The most successful colleges continually validate the effectiveness of their programs by tracking graduate progress and receiving feedback from employers.
  • Successful colleges often establish strong relationships with local communities and industries, providing students with valuable real-world exposure and connections.

Turning to a career in security, Cavaciuti took advantage of a training program at Delaware Technical Community College. His journey shines a light on a trend occurring across the nation: short-term, cost-effective certificate programs offered by community colleges are providing crucial training for “middle-skill” jobs, effectively addressing labor shortages.

Success Beyond Traditional Academia

Many community colleges, like Delaware Technical Community College (Del Tech), are demonstrating the effectiveness of these certificate programs in preparing students for the workforce. “Our goal in the division that I oversee is to get folks trained, get them credentialed, and then employed,” said Paul Morris, associate vice president for workforce development and community education at Del Tech. In 2022 alone, Del Tech awarded 4,500 certificates and credentials.

The certificate programs at community colleges also play a crucial role in addressing a disconnect between educators and employers. A recent study found that “only 21% of community college leaders strongly agreed that their schools were producing work-ready employees that employers needed. Only 26% of employers strongly agreed that community colleges were producing the workers that they needed,” shares Joseph Fuller, a Harvard Business School professor. By offering more industry-aligned certificate programs, community colleges can help bridge this gap.

Real-Life Success Stories

The positive effects of these certificate programs extend beyond statistics. Individuals like Joshua Eschke, a student at Lorain County Community College in Ohio, have found success and promising career opportunities through these programs. Having previously struggled with the traditional college route, Eschke is now thriving in a one-year certificate program and is considering pursuing a bachelor’s degree. He’s currently making $23 an hour, a wage he describes as “pretty amazing” for just one semester and a certificate.

Stories like Eschke’s demonstrate the potential of these programs to provide transformative educational and career opportunities for individuals who may not fit into traditional academic paths. As community colleges continue to evolve and adapt to the needs of their communities, they are playing an increasingly pivotal role in addressing labour gaps and fostering the growth of a robust, skilled workforce.

How do You Pick the Perfect Certificate Program

Embarking on a certificate program is a significant step towards career advancement. These programs provide practical skills and knowledge that can be directly applied to the workforce. But with the myriad of options available, how do you choose the right program for you?

Identify Your Career Goals

Understanding your long-term career aspirations is the first step. Are you looking to advance in your current job, or switch to a new field? Once you have clarity on your career trajectory, you can then look for programs that align with your objectives.

How Community Colleges are Filling Labor Gaps

Gain insights into the current job market trends. Are there specific industries with labour shortages? What skills are in high demand? Look for certificate programs that provide training in these areas to increase your employability.

Consider Your Interests and Strengths

Your personal interests and strengths should also factor into your decision. Engaging in a program that you’re passionate about will not only make the learning process enjoyable but will also lead to a more fulfilling career.

Evaluate Program Flexibility

Particularly for those balancing work or family commitments, it’s crucial to consider the flexibility of the program. Does it offer part-time or online learning options?

Check Program Reputation and Success Rate

Finally, consider the reputation of the institution and the program’s success rate. Look for student testimonials, employer feedback, and employment rates post-completion.


By thoughtfully considering your career goals, market trends, personal interests, program flexibility, and success rate, you can find a certificate program that can catapult your career to new heights.

Related articles:

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Industry Leaders Share Their Insights on Tech Careers in an Evolving Landscape

Boston’s Apprentice Learning Program Spearheads Early Career Exploration for Middle School Students

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