In April 2016, the White House announced the expansion of federal initiatives to connect students with in-demand jobs through free community college training.1 The America's Promise Job-Driven Training grants program will receive an additional $100 million to promote partnerships between community colleges and other training providers, employers, and public workforce systems to develop tuition-free training for middle-skilled and high-skilled positions in in-demand fields. Another $70 million will go toward the America's College Promise initiative to develop 27 new free community college programs. The success of initiatives such as this depends not only on funding, but also on effective promotional efforts to attract students and cultivate their interest. Here are some steps high school and college administrators and educators can take to help cultivate student interest in in-demand careers.

Offer Accelerated In-Demand Training

One way educational institutions can promote student interest in in-demand careers is by offering accelerated training for in-demand skills. The White House's TechHire Initiative partners with 21 communities and over 300 employers to promote accelerated, nontraditional technical training.2 Take a look at the organizations supporting the initiative:

  • Microsoft's intensive Tech Jobs Academy uses its existing partnerships with 5,581 schools and community colleges to promote free in-demand skills training.3
  • St. Louis Community College provides industry-specific accelerated job training in partnership with local employers.4
  • Charter College's Missoula branch has launched a 10-month medical assistant certificate program which uses a blended learning model that combines bookwork students can do at home with hands-on lab classes at medical laboratories and classrooms.5

This type of blended learning approach can speed up coursework by making it possible for students to pursue bookwork at their own pace while getting a head start on gaining their hands-on experience.

Provide Tuition Support

Another way colleges can promote student interest in in-demand training is by offering additional tuition support to students participating in qualifying programs. The most cost-efficient way to do this is for financial aid offices to connect students with scholarships and grants that already exist for studying in-demand fields. Sources of such funding can come from government agencies, employers and nonprofits. Examples of these programs include:

  • The Massachusetts High Demand Scholarship program makes funds available to qualifying community college full-time and part-time students who are pursuing degrees in designated high-need fields.6
  • Health insurance provider Cigna has increased funding for its Educational Reimbursement Program following a study demonstrating that the company gains a 129 percent return on investment for every dollar invested in student tuition.7

Cigna's study was designed in partnership with the nonprofit Lumina Foundation, which works with workforce partners to facilitate grants for education in in-demand fields.8

Offer Apprenticeship Programs

Finally, consider offering in-demand training in conjunction with apprenticeship programs that set learners on a fast track to a post-graduation job. As with providing tuition support, the most efficient way to achieve this is by tapping into existing programs. A couple of examples are:

  • In cooperation with the White House TechHire Initiative, the Employ Milwaukee program is providing graduates of its in-demand training center with access to internships, apprenticeships and full-time jobs from partnering employers in in-demand fields such as healthcare, manufacturing, and finance.9
  • The Department of Labor is distributing $175 million in American Apprenticeship grants to promote in-demand job apprenticeships by bringing together educational institutions with employers, labor unions, local governments, and nonprofits.10

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Resources: Photo credit. (1) (2) (3) Tech Jobs Academy (4) St. Louis Community College (5) Helena Independent Record (6) Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (7) Lumina Foundation (8) Lumina Foundation (9) (10) U.S. Department of Labor