By the year 2020, 68 percent of jobs in New Hampshire will require some form of higher education, according to researchers at Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
While the U.S. Department of Education shows New Hampshire on an upward trend for post-secondary graduation rates, the projected numbers may only reach 60 percent by 2020.
To avoid a skilled labor gap in the near future, the Community College System of New Hampshire, including Nashua Community College, launched the “65 by 25” initiative to get 65 percent of New Hampshire workers post-secondary education by 2025.
Guided Pathways for Success
In support of this goal, CCSNH and NCC implemented the “Guided Pathways for Success,” or GPS: A roadmap to help students stay on track to graduation. The initiative is based on best practices from “Complete College America,” a nonprofit working to raise the number of Americans with career certificates or college degrees and to close achievement gaps for underrepresented populations.
At NCC, prior to enrolling in a program, students are encouraged to try the online “Career Coach” tool on the nashuacc.edu homepage. Career Coach is a free resource that matches a student’s interest with a list of educational programs. Then it uses real-time data to show local careers, salaries, and whether the positions are increasing or decreasing in availability.
This way, students can learn about programs that suit their interest and strengths, what local jobs they can get with that education, and what kind of pay to expect. The student will go into their program of study with a clear goal in mind - and a realistic expectation on a return on their investment.
The “Purpose First” guidance begins with Career Coach and steers students to classes they need for graduation. Those hoping to transfer are encouraged to only take classes accepted by the four-year institution.
With NCC’s Honors Coordinator Steve Meidell heading the newly launched “First Year” Program, students will have another resource for mentorship and motivation throughout their first year.
First year students also take an Ethnography of Work class to introduce them to real-life working experiences of professionals in their industry of choice.
Using program mapping, a first semester student can see a chart of classes and actions they need to take to get from English 101 at NCC to a BA in psychology at UNH, without wasting a single credit hour.
NCC staff have implemented new technology in the onboarding process to reach students, such as the “EAB Navigate,” which advisors can use to chat with students and set up appointments. The tool also allows advisors to track student progress and provide early intervention to encourage retention and completion.
Throughout their program of study, students are grouped into newly streamlined “Academic Focus Areas”. At Nashua Community College, the seven primary Academic Focus Areas are: Arts, Humanities, Communication & Design; Business; Health Sciences & Services; Hospitality & Culinary; Industry & Transportation; Social, Educational & Behavioral Sciences; and STEM & Advanced Manufacturing. NCC also has additional programs such as non-credit career training classes through the Corporate, Community & Continuing Education Department, and language courses in the Department of Multicultural Engagement (ESOL).
NCC also has an active student body, participating in more than a dozen clubs and organizations.
Getting students through the doors of a college is the first step, but keeping a student engaged and enthusiastic through graduation is the real goal.
Lucille Jordan is President of Nashua Community College, located at 505 Amherst Street, Nashua.
This column was published in the August 25, 2017 edition of The Telegraph.