Community colleges and their partners can do more to train students for the workforce, a process that should start as early as middle school, community college leaders and experts said Thursday.

During the EdSource Roundtable discussion, the first in a new series, panelists agreed that community colleges in California and elsewhere often fall short in preparing adult workers. To remedy that, they suggested strategies such as better career counseling and helping students get more work experience during their education.

Eloy Oakley, the systemwide chancellor overseeing California’s community colleges, said that while colleges have made some progress in preparing their students for careers, they are “not doing enough.” He said that, in many cases, for-profit colleges and others are doing a better job at enrolling adult learners than the community colleges.

“We’re not moving fast enough by any means, in no way, shape or form,” he said. “…We have to acknowledge that we have to become much more flexible, much more focused on upskilling, stacking credentials, giving students opportunities to personalize their needs in ways that we haven’t been able to do before.”

But it shouldn’t be left only to the community colleges to prepare students for their careers, panelists agreed, adding that the process should start in middle school or high school.

The roundtable hosted by EdSource Executive Director Anne Vasquez and Ashley Smith, higher education reporter, explored the role of community colleges in preparing workers for a post-pandemic economy.

Tony Carnevale, research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said community colleges are one of the “key elements” of career training in the United States. Carnevale added that by 2030, there will be 168 million jobs, with 40% of them requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher, 30% requiring less than a bachelor’s degree but more than a high school diploma and 30% requiring a high school diploma.

Carnevale emphasized two possible solutions to preparing students for the future workforce: work-based learning and career counseling.

Read the full article about preparing and training students for the future workforce by Michael Burke at EdSource.