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Kevin G. Walthers: Community colleges up to the challenge
Guest Commentary

Kevin G. Walthers: Community colleges up to the challenge

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Kevin Walthers

Hancock College Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers is a competitor in the Dance Lompoc event.

At Allan Hancock College we are focused on changing the odds for our community.

We often focus on those who overcome the odds, but we also want to remove barriers and create a clear path for students to earn a degree or certificate. This is critical not just for the future of our community, but for all of California.

In 2014, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) projected a looming shortage of workers with post-secondary training, but less than a bachelor’s degree. Their analysis showed there may be as many as 1.5 million more jobs than workers available by 2025.

California’s community colleges are up to the task. In the three years following the 2014 report, community colleges throughout the state increased degree production by 30 percent and certificate awards by more than 25 percent. That’s an additional 200,000 degrees and certificates over the baseline.

Counting back to 2012, awards are up by more than 50 percent and an additional quarter-million degrees and certificates are now in the hands of our workforce.

It’s not just those earning degrees and certificates who are benefitting. The South Central Coast Strong Workforce Region includes some of our peer institutions, including the College of the Canyons and Antelope Valley College in Los Angeles County, along with six colleges in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Each year, these colleges provide training to workers that may not lead to a degree, but adds value to wages. We are able to document the thousands of workers each year that benefit at one of our colleges through our Skills Builders training programs.

There is no doubt the PPIC report is correct in asserting we must “improve both the odds of completion and the time it takes to obtain a credential at California’s community colleges. Successful outcomes are jeopardized when students have trouble enrolling in high-demand courses and identifying efficient pathways through the system.”

It’s an important goal to remember — and one we embody daily at Hancock.

Allan Hancock College is working to improve the odds of completion for our students by providing guided pathways, intrusive counseling, concurrent enrollment at the high schools and a Promise program that debuts its first class this summer.

Even with all that is going on locally, It’s imperative to ensure proper statewide support for the state’s best workforce-development engine. Our progress has been significant following the Great Recession and the momentum continues. While we still have a great deal of work to do, Allan Hancock College — along with our sister colleges throughout the state — are well on the way to meeting the workforce demands of 2025.

Kevin G. Walthers is superintendent/president of Allan Hancock College.

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