Rowan Work & Learn: Education and Business Partner to Meet Employment Needs

By Frederick Keating, Ed.D.
President, Rowan College of South Jersey
Columnist for New Jersey Free Press

Published January 2021 – New Jersey Free Press

In recent years colleges have taken on a new identity, particularly community colleges. Years ago, students focused on studying multiple subjects in addition to their career major, graduating with a well-rounded, broader education. Today’s world of higher education now leans more towards specialization and career mobility. Students enroll in college seeking to learn a skill or to become knowledgeable in a specific field of study. For these students, community colleges offer a solution that saves both time and money — two-year degree and certificate programs designed to advance employment opportunities.

Rowan College of South Jersey’s (RCSJ) two-year certificate and associate degree programs offer training in a concentrated field, internship opportunities, and lead the way to occupations that result in a comfortable living wage. This learn-and-work strategy has grown in popularity as students seek to “get in, get out and get a job,” keeping education debt to a minimum with the promise of gainful employment at the end of the journey. Students who complete a two-year degree can expect to earn about $5,000 more per year than high school graduates, in addition to having lower poverty rates and higher life expectancies.

To better prepare students for success in high-demand positions, RCSJ created the Rowan Work & Learn Consortium; an alliance between higher education, county vocational-technical schools and local businesses. The College’s Work & Learn initiative equips students for employment in New Jersey’s seven highest areas of labor demand by providing the ability to gain experience, earn industry credentials, and generate income along the way. Seamless pathways link credit and non-credit programs in key industries such as advanced manufacturing; biopharmaceutical life sciences; construction management; financial services; healthcare; hospitality, retail and tourism; and transportation, logistics and distribution.

I am hopeful that bringing together educators and employers within the community will help to reduce critical skill gaps, make higher education affordable and support our state’s economic recovery, while expanding career opportunities for residents in search of a better future.

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