Will Community Colleges Solve the Unemployment Crisis?

Community colleges seem to be getting a lot more attention these days.  NBC’s hit show Community, which focuses on the everyday experiences of an eclectic group of community college students premiered its third season last Thursday.  Our Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, moonlights as a professor at a North Virginia Community College.  More importantly, the Federal government announced on Monday that they would be investing nearly $500 million to community college programs in all 50 states.

The grants aim to increase graduation rates, and to provide new job-specific programs to re-train unemployed workers by teaching them the necessary skills to obtain jobs in the high-demand sectors.

President Obama mentioned the government’s commitment to investing in community colleges and retraining the unemployed during Monday’s Putting America Back to Work Town Hall event hosted by LinkedIn. The event highlighted that although the unemployment rate is 9.1%, equating to about 14 million Americans out of work, there are currently over 3.2 million available jobs.  These numbers suggest that there are some jobs out there, but that employers are not finding the unemployed to be the right candidates.

As a (thankful to be employed) Compete employee, this got me thinking…what demographic is currently taking advantage of community college training programs?  Who are the prospective students researching different community college programs online? Is this group made up of mostly recent high school graduates or those in their late 40s and 50s looking to hone some new skills to further their careers or make themselves more desirable candidates?

Using Compete’s analytics I was able to view the data of Tidewater Community College’s website.   TCC, based in Virginia, was the biggest recipient of the grants thus far, receiving  a $24.1 million piece of the pie to assist the state’s community-college system.  Tidewater’s new programs will focus on preparing students for careers in the health professions.

My findings…

So it appears that about 20% of prospective students researching TCC’s website are recent high school graduates, while the remaining 80% are above the age of 24.

I also checked out the earnings demographics of those researching the TCC’s site.  It looks like about 31% are earning under $30k, while the remaining 69% have higher incomes. These numbers suggest that many prospective students are already in the workforce and are looking to utilize community college programs to increase their earning potential.

It should be interesting to see what the data will show in terms of increase of traffic to Community College home pages in the next coming months and years.  How will these schools market their new re-training programs to the unemployed?  Will the $500 million prove to be money well spent to put the American workforce back on track?