By Anthony Cammalleri | January 4, 2023 |Lynn Item
DANVERS — North Shore Community College (NSCC) President William Heineman met with business leaders and college presidents across the North Shore to discuss ways to prepare students for the workforce.
Speakers and audience members gathered in a function room at the Danversport venue at around 7:30 a.m. for the North Shore Chamber of Commerce’s first Business Insight Breakfast.
Heineman, along with Salem State Vice President of Student Success Nate Bryant, Montserrat President Kurt Steinberg, Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn and Gordon College President Mike Hammond, presented their plans to equip students with the skills needed to succeed on their career paths.
In a slideshow presentation, Heineman shared NSCC’s work toward expanding training for students to acquire non-degree essentials, or opportunities for individuals to learn the skills necessary for a profession or trade without the expense or duration of a four-year degree.
Heineman said that, on-average, those who earn non-degree credentials earn approximately $50,000 after completion of their programs, similar to the average earnings of an associate degree recipient.
“These [non-degree essentials] are not too expensive to get, and the outcomes are not bad in terms of salary and job satisfaction. It does depend on which credential you get, but they’re really valuable if you get the right one,” Heineman said.
Last year, NSCC partnered with Education Strategy Group, a Maryland-based education consultancy firm, to take part in its Non-Credit and Credit Alignment Lab initiative. The initiative aims to help young workers climb the ranks in their professions through intermittent credentials, rather than degrees.
Heineman said that through a credentials-based program, students can start their careers earlier, earn a living and learn the skills necessary to pursue additional education and training down the road if they choose to.
“Allowing someone to start with something as simple and basic as machinist training, we happen to be offering this training right now […] The students who are hopping into this are finding that there’s jobs out there, and they pay well,” Heineman said. “They may choose to stop there, that may be enough for them. But what we want to do is make sure they’re able to keep going, if that turns out not to be enough.”
“What we’re working on is making sure that training seamlessly stacks into an advanced manufacturing technology certificate. And then if the student is interested in going even further up to an associate’s degree in technology, and in theory, that then could lead to bachelor’s degrees as well, if they’re interested in sort of the mechanical part of manufacturing,” Heineman said.
Heineman went on to share NSCC’s efforts to create a life sciences center through the expansion of the college’s Bertolon Simulation Lab under the college’s Centers of Excellence program.
The state, Heineman said, expects the life sciences industry to create approximately 20,000 new jobs in the next few years, and NSCC is trying to give students the skills needed to enter a thriving industry.
“The purpose behind Centers of Excellence concentrate is to prioritize the industries that are growing fastest in our region. Life sciences is one of those industries, so we put our money in the best of our facilities, to the best of our technology into the Centers of Excellence, like this center, which is being designed right now,” Heineman said.
Bryant, whose speech preceded Heineman’s presentation, described a clash between student culture and workforce preparedness. He said that educators should not try to choose between preparing students with the necessary skills to be successful after graduation and teaching them to think critically and openly.
“I’m going to guess that when your child graduates from college, you probably don’t want them coming back home with no job and sleeping in your basement […] It’s about being prepared for the workforce, and so this is where I think the culture and traditions of higher education sometimes clash with the workforce,” Bryant said. “We often hear, ‘My job is not to help students find a job. My job is to help them be better thinkers, problem solvers.’ I say, ‘I think you can do both.’”
Bryant said that paid internships were crucial for college students to supplement their education with more practical experience in their fields, stating that Salem State has worked to implement paid internship programs so that working students will not have to choose between their jobs and attaining career skills.
“I think we, as an institution, are now recognizing the importance of internships, ” he said. “Our students cannot afford to stop working at 7-Eleven to go through an internship, when there’s no guarantee that when they’re done with the internship, they go back to 7-Eleven. So we have to find ways to make sure that we can supplement that loss.”
Heineman, too, wrapped up his presentation by highlighting the importance of expanding practical educational resources to working class cities. He referenced NSCC’s recent adoption of an early college program, which allowed Lynn High School students the opportunity to earn an associate degree before graduation.
“North Shore opened a brand new, first-of-its-kind, full four-year high school on our Lynn campus this past fall in collaboration with the Lynn Public Schools, which is meant to really address this challenge we have with low post-secondary attainment in cities like Lynn, cities like Lawrence. I think that a crucial short-term answer to the labor shortage is giving more people in those cities the opportunity to participate in our economy,” Heineman said.