Towards the end of 2016, the Committee for Geelong hosted Dr
Glenn Dubois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System
(VCCS), United States, as part of our International Speaker Series:
Glenn became Chancellor of VCCS in July 2001, serving as CEO of
the 23-college, 40-campus system of comprehensive community
colleges. The Committee met Glenn during our 2015 trade
mission to the USA as part of our efforts to develop international
links to benefit Geelong. Glenn agreed to visit Geelong and share
his insights about what our city can learn from America's skilled
workforce shortage. During his visit, Glenn met with
representatives from The Gordon, Deakin University and Tribal
Campus. He also addressed a large audience at an event hosted
in partnership with the City of Greater Geelong.
The messages Glenn shared really made people sit up and take
notice. Effectively, he was smashing down beliefs that have been
tightly held for decades about post-secondary education and the
road to the middle class.
In Virginia - much like here - people have long held the belief
that a university degree is a guaranteed pathway to secure
employment and a comfortable existence; the American Dream.
According to Glenn, bachelor degrees have been oversold as the
pathway to the middle class with some limited exceptions, such as
engineering: "Virginia faces the '1-2-7 phenomenon'. For every job
that requires an advanced degree (think senior design engineer,
CEO), that role will need support by two undergraduate degrees
(think accounting, IT) and these positions will need support by
seven middle skilled positions (think truck driver, electrician,
administrative assistant)" Glenn said.
"We can get plenty of the ONE or the TWO - but we can't find
enough of the SEVEN; we can't find them locally and we can't import
them. The hardest job to fill in the hi-tech hub of Northern
Virginia is a certified electrician. I waited three weeks for an
electrician to undertake work in my home. The work took half a day
and he charged USD$3,000 - that's more than my lawyer charges!"
As a result of the skills shortage, the Commonwealth of Virginia
has made an historic change to the way it funds VCCS.
Colleges have now started offering four-month courses preparing
students for their truck driver's licence, electrician's
certificate or plumbing registration. They are targeting 30-50 year
olds - some of them bachelor degree qualified - who are stuck in
three part-time jobs that are getting them nowhere.
The Committee's international research Winning from Second
reinforces that providing a range of education choice, particularly
in areas of specialisation, is important to a city's success -
especially as variety provides job opportunities and employment
growth. As Geelong transforms, it is vital that our city
explores the gaps in areas of specialisation that could provide
provision of greater educational opportunities and choice.
This might also include a better understanding of the pathways
available for individuals, both university to TAFE and TAFE to
university, to better skill our own workforce.