President Obama’s call for $8 billion to help community colleges turn out employees for high-growth industries, providing incentives for colleges that do the best jobs, is a good idea. But if Congress grants the request, it should do so with some restraint.
The government shouldn’t try to tell the colleges what to teach, because the kinds of jobs available in one area might not be available in another.
I remember one community college in Arizona that had a terrific gunsmith program, and every graduate got a job. That was because an arms manufacturer in the same city as the college was always looking for skilled gunsmiths, and the many gun shops in Arizona also were looking for help.
That kind of program in Madera’s community college wouldn’t result in many graduates getting jobs.
The Arizona gunsmith program operated with hardly any federal help, because the demand for the courses kept the program busy, and paying its own way in the college.
The White House has identified “electronic medical records” and “cyber security” as two possible job areas that could be funded by the program, and those areas of employment might be good in some places. But in other places, they might not be. It would be counter-productive to turn out big batches of medical records workers in the Valley, for example, because people already are being trained for that line of work, and jobs, when they open, are readily filled.
At least one such federal training program I remember trained video recorder technicians, only to have them wind up in the unemployment lines when it turned out that video recorders weren’t breaking down all that much, and that when they did break down, it was cheaper to buy new ones.
Let local colleges tell the government what they need rather than the other way around.