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Investing in America: A Golden Opportunity For Learners to Discover and Enter the Future of Work

Updated: Feb 5

An opportunity for community colleges that you cannot afford to miss

Annette Parker headshot.


Dr. Annette Parker, Board Vice Chair

Coalition for Career Development Center

Eva Mitchell headshot.


Eva Mitchell, CEO

Coalition for Career Development Center

There is a new golden opportunity window you need to know about. Community college leaders and educators can be a part of this multi-million dollar opportunity; recruit and better support more students and adult learners, including those from underrepresented communities; and, greatly increase graduates’ earning potential and job prospects. Getting involved in the action is simple: be a part of Investing in America. Stick with us, we will walk you through the steps. 

Step 1. Understand why the time is now. This is important.

Through his aptly named Investing in America agenda, President Biden is allocating funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Good Jobs Initiative to ensure America’s modern technology remains internationally competitive, our nation maintains national security, and we hedge inflation. The multi-trillion investment also aspires to reshore businesses capable of manufacturing the latest technologies by supporting a skilled workforce in America. New opportunities abound for community colleges to support this effort. Due to the recent increase in government funding, certain industries are now flush with money and will grow exponentially; they will need a high-quality, skilled talent pipeline from reputable partners. You can meet this need. 

Step 2. Understand what you need to do. You can do it.

When applying for CHIPS Act grants, industries are encouraged to partner with education and training providers, such as community colleges, to fulfill the workforce development requirements tied to CHIPS Act funding. While community colleges are not eligible to receive investments directly, you can support a critical CHIPS Act objective: to broaden the participation of underrepresented communities in technical; microelectronic; and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related careers. Established to support workforce training, this directive has been central to most community colleges’ missions.  Further, there is funding for community colleges that have developed industry partnerships, such as the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.

You are the missing link between the skills and talent large corporations and small businesses need and the necessary education and training the workforce requires. Additionally, community colleges can leverage the increase of dually enrolled high school students at two-year colleges to promote experiential learning, including apprenticeships, on their campuses for K-12 students. In doing so, community colleges can also play a key role in supporting the K-12 STEM pipeline broadly. Whether attending a four-year college with community college credits in hand or entering the workforce with high-demand skills and up-to-date industry knowledge, community college graduates are poised to meet our economic needs of today, and tomorrow.

Step 3. Understand who needs you. You can be in high demand.

An image of a semiconductor.

In response to the CHIPS Act, our nation will need to double its semiconductor workforce and triple the number of graduates in semiconductor-related fields. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act demands a clean energy-focused workforce. The Good Jobs Initiative promises to enhance access to infrastructure and manufacturing jobs. These industries, flush with funding, need workers. For adult learners and youth alike, work-based learning opportunities like apprenticeships are a strong solution, and community colleges are the glue—and the bridge—between learning and working. NSF is poised to collaborate with community colleges to strengthen supply chains, support smaller projects and businesses, and create good-paying jobs in local communities across the country. NSF has received billions of dollars to help implement the CHIPS Act through its programs focused on experiential learning opportunities, with particular attention to improving diversity in STEM fields. With support from community colleges, NSF, and other public or private organizations, can ensure both workers and the workforce are set up for success.  

Step 4. Understand where you can get connected. We can help you.

The Coalition for Career Development (CCD Center) values cross-sector partnerships. In light of the funding dedicated to Investing in America, education and industry have a unique opportunity to partner to advance high-quality career development opportunities for ALL. 

As you consider partnering with technical assistance organizations and networks, consider looking at the Community College Presidents Initiative in STEM (CCPI-STEM). This project provides webcasts and podcasts for community college presidents to support them in leveraging NSF-ATE grant opportunities and other funding. For technical assistance, consider working with CAEL. The organization develops industry level partnerships that result in strong post-secondary education and equitable career pathways through strategies that better attract and serve adult learners and promote recognition of credit for prior learning to boost enrollment and completion, including using Credit Predictor Pro; developing industry-aligned curricula and innovative education-employment pathways; evaluating credential programs to assess alignment with in-demand job skills; implementing platforms that support employee upskilling; and developing occupational crosswalks, pathways, and skills transfer support for impacted and outplaced roles.

As you consider partnering with businesses, much attention has been paid to large corporations, like Intel, which qualify for direct federal funding. However, the majority of businesses providing goods and services in high demand to serve as subcontractors for larger corporations positioned to receive CHIPS Act funding will be small-to-medium-sized businesses. You can help these smaller employers approach the big companies that will be seeking suppliers of goods and services. The larger companies are looking for these smaller businesses—the government program provides incentives to applicants who lay out their intent to actively work with small businesses. Even after these large corporations submit applications, "there's going to be 'a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to get involved because they're going to need an entire supply chain.'" What’s more, smaller businesses providing goods and services related to CHIPS Act industries can provide sites for community college apprentices.

Historically black community colleges will be encouraged to apply to participate in the free partnership program the CCD Center is building for community colleges and small businesses, including those who are members of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. We know community colleges will need support and funding to reach their potential. They will need to market themselves to learners as a means to attain a high-demand, high-growth, and high-paying good job. They will need to collaborate with small businesses to provide training, apprentices, and skilled workers. We believe partnerships with four-year colleges, industry, and other organizations are the key to building community colleges’ capacity for training and expanding their experiential learning programs. 

When it comes to career, workforce, and business development in America, we are at a historic moment in time. President Biden’s Investing in America transformational infrastructure investments, totaling in the trillions, demand a skilled, diverse workforce. But where will these workers come from, and how can we ensure they gain the skills necessary to meet this moment?

The answer lies in effective collaboration between industry, government, education, and communities. That’s the crux of our mission at the CCD Center, where we work to make career readiness for ALL the #1 priority of American education and workforce development.

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