The widening skills gap in the United States will grow only larger as enrollment in community colleges continues to drop precipitously. As noted in the March 8 Metro article “Community colleges’ struggles reverberate,” employers rely heavily on community colleges as a pipeline for providing skilled technicians in a range of fields. What compounds the supply-and-demand problem is the failure in many high schools to expose students to a variety of career pathways, including many that lead to well-paying jobs through two-year degrees or certificates.

Locally, the Arlington Career Center (Arlington Public Schools) offers more than 20 programs ranging from emergency medical technology and auto technology to cybersecurity and sustainable energy technology. Students are given the opportunity to test-drive several careers. To make college tuition more affordable, many courses offer dual enrollment, enabling students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously. In some cases, high school students have earned enough college credits to start their first year as college sophomores. 

There is a dire need for a skilled workforce. The sooner high school students are aware of their options, the likelier some will seek a community college education.

Paula Cruickshank, Arlington