At Community Colleges, Skills Training Offers a Vital Career Boost

School of thought: At some local community colleges, value-added skills training helps students earn a more competitive wage.

For community colleges across Texas, success isn’t always measured by how many degrees they give out at the end of the school year. Often, it’s measured by a school’s economic impact on the community it educates. That’s why some local colleges have refocused their efforts on preparing graduates for higher-paying jobs with work-skills training.

Tarrant County College (TCC) and Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) have more than 100,000 enrolled students who are taking professional development classes, learning soft skills and seeking degrees for as little as $59 per credit hour.

“If you’re coming from a family that didn’t go to college, these programs may be a pivotal point that show an entire next generation that they are college material,” said Liz Sisk, senior donor relations officer at the Tarrant County College Foundation. “There’s a generational uplift that follows these first-gen students.”

JPMorgan Chase released the Dallas Skills Gap Report in May 2015, part of its five-year, $250 million initiative, New Skills at Work. The report identified both healthcare and IT as demand-driven workforce industries with major growth potential, and detailed how to best train students for these fields.

"We really want our students to advance in their careers and make living wages,” said Shannon Ydoyaga of DCCCD. “That's why JPMorgan Chase has been so important to us, from a strategic standpoint, with their workforce initiative. They also see the importance of moving people out of poverty through higher education."

Training Programs

Using the research provided by JPMorgan Chase’s report, TCC and DCCCD developed new healthcare-oriented training programs. For example, TCC works with students on “stackable credentials” so that wages can be increased based on new skills and related certificates.

Similarly, DCCCD launched a training program called Project OnRamp. Enrollees in the program include tenured healthcare workers with 15 to 20 years of work experience at assisted living facilities, but who are still earning low wages. OnRamp supports, advises and funds the purchase of school equipment for these workers as they complete their Patient Care Technician (PCT) certification coursework, often while working full time.

After completing the PCT exam, these students—with the help of OnRamp’s career services coordinator—find better-paid positions. That may mean raising their hourly wage from $8 to $12 or $14, helping them move closer to a living wage.

Some of OnRamp’s students have even gone on to be admitted to nursing school, a degree that can net $50,000 per year salary positions. These success stories wouldn’t be possible without the financial and academic support that students receive through the program.

Approximately 160 Project OnRamp students have now completed the program and an additional fifteen will finish in Fall 2016. The hope is to continue the program with a new round of students next year.

JPMorgan Chase sponsors both Tarrant County College and Dallas County Community College District workforce training programs through its New Skills at Work initiative. A global, $250 million initiative, New Skills at Work aims to close the skills gap in demand-driven industries.

Find out more about JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to the Dallas-Fort Worth communities.