Monday, April 23, 2018

Difficulty of luring vocational instructors hurts rural colleges

Rural colleges are facing a faculty crisis, especially in attracting instructors for vocational programs. "Nurses or electricians can make far more in the private sector than a college can pay them to teach, and being in remote locations with fewer experienced workers to tap as instructors doesn’t help," Matt Krupnick reports for The Hechinger Report, an education newsletter. "That leads to a skilled worker shortage that spells trouble for the schools as well as for local businesses."

The problem doesn't just hurt rural colleges and local economies, but the national economy. A dramatic shortage of skilled blue-collar workers in the U.S., combined with a rising wave of Baby Boomer retirements, is going to hit industry hard over the next few years. There are about 30 million jobs that pay at least $55,000 per year that don’t require bachelor’s degrees, reports  Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. But many require some training at a community college or other technical program; without vocational instructors to teach those courses, the economy in some places could stall," Krupnick reports.

Another factor contributing to the problem is poor reporting.  Many rural colleges fail to report persistent faculty vacancies to the states, and many states fail to adequately push the issue. Without accurate numbers, it's hard to fix the problem, according to Mary Jo Self, an Oklahoma State University associate professors of occupational education studies.

Rural colleges are trying new approaches to attract and keep instructors. In North Dakota, nursing schools are holding more classes at hospitals and clinics so nurses who teach the classes can more easily keep working while they teach. Some colleges are opening satellite sites to help more rural residents gain skills and hopefully stick around afterward. In California, some community colleges are trying to make it easier for instructors with no degree but years of experience to teach in the classroom, Krupnick reports.

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