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How to build a modern workforce

india Updated: Jun 22, 2013 01:20 IST
Highlight Story

Innovation in the 21st century has reshaped the world of work and civil society. Innovation has redefined the knowledge and skills necessary to support emerging sectors of the economy.

Raising the overall level of educational attainment for all of our citizens is critical and addressing the skills gap in key industries is essential.

Community colleges are uniquely positioned to design their curricula to match local labour market conditions, making them flexible and relevant to today’s economy and job market. They are open access institutions committed to providing job-relevant educational opportunities to students in their local communities.

The challenge, then, for the United States and India is to think of ways we can promote more opportunities for our diverse and dynamic populations to access these and other educational opportunities.

US President Barack Obama is looking to community colleges to play a key role in increasing the number of US college graduates and helping more Americans get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in an increasingly interconnected global world.

In the US, these institutions enrol more students than any other higher education sector, and almost half of all US undergraduate students attend one of nearly 1,100 community colleges across the country.

Many of those colleges work closely with local employer partners to design course materials that lead to industry-recognised certificates and degrees.

India is faced with the similar challenge of educating its population for rapidly emerging fields, and is exploring best practices in the community college model to help prepare Indians for these new jobs.

It is taking steps to enable the development of a national network of community colleges in order to meet workforce
demands.

In February, the US participated in the International Community College Conference hosted by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, which focused on creating a network of 200 community colleges with ties to industry.

The government has established the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) to coordinate and streamline the skill development efforts of the government and the private sector to achieve the nation’s skilling targets.

Many community college-industry partnerships begin with a workforce need expressed by an individual employer. Other partnerships begin with a community college that recognises a regional economic sector challenge and calls upon businesses to help it meet the challenge.

The Obama Administration has made a historic investment in community colleges through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant programme. This programme provides US community colleges with additional resources to build and expand short-term career training programmes, in partnership with employers.

The US and India are both looking closely at emerging industries as target sectors in which to train our youth or provide new skills for professionals so that they can advance their lives and seek secure futures for themselves and their families.

The upcoming US-India Higher Education Dialogue will provide an opportunity for our two countries to deepen our partnerships and consider ways to advance the prosperity of our nations.

Offering opportunities for affordable higher education that prepare students for the modern workforce is an ambitious, achievable goal.

Tara D Sonenshine is US under-secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and Martha Kanter is US under-secretary of education

The views expressed by the authors are personal