The COVID-19 pandemic came in as a rude awakening for the U.S labor market and has exposed some deep structural flaws in the country’s economic infrastructure.

Due to a skilled labor shortage, for example, companies are finding it challenging to attract workers they need to keep up with demands.

To address this critical issue, Lone Star College is partnering with the think tank New America to research and help community colleges elevate the visibility and maximize the impact of their workforce programs.

New America conducted more than a year of research and funded six community colleges with specific high-quality, non-degree programs. LSC was one of six colleges to receive $50,000 to learn how higher education institutions can attract students to the classroom and prepare them for the workforce.

“We have a successful workforce program. We created these based on real employer needs and providing not for college credit programs became really important because so many people lost their jobs,” said Linda Leto Head, senior vice chancellor, Office External and Employer Relations.

“The model for the New America project is about recognizing that it’s not just about getting a degree, but investing in other areas of the workforce where you can get a job in six months or less.”

Community colleges are no strangers to the misconceptions that lead many families and students to view them as second-class institutions. Now, with the smaller class sizes, flexible schedules, lower tuition rate, mixed with the downside of a sluggish economy and high unemployment rates, community colleges are considered to be a viable option over four-year institutions.

“We’re holding an advisory council that will meet regularly with industry leaders to discuss the current workforce, helping people get jobs, improving our economy, and retaining and attracting new business to Texas,” Head said. “We’re a big college. Not every community college has the resources we do, so why not take good models from a few schools and share the information.”

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Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...