West Virginia Executive Summer 2014 - Page 49

Closing the Gap Students’ hands-on experiences are tied to learning outcomes that count for course credit as part of their academic program. By Dr. Sarah Tucker West Virginia’s Learn and Earn Program Like most states, West Virginia is facing a work force skills gap. The education and training levels of the state’s citizenry do not match the needs of its projected work force because of changes in technology and an aging population. To bridge this gap, more people than ever before will have to enroll in West Virginia’s community and technical colleges to receive the education and training needed to be successful in tomorrow’s work force. Life’s financial responsibilities, however, can often get in the way of a working adult’s college degree attainment. For those who are employed full-time or those who struggle to get by, terminating employment to begin higher education is simply not an option. To try to remove this barrier, the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia (CTCSWV) established Learn and Earn, a program that helps make higher education more affordable through paid cooperative educational experiences. This public-private partnership program seeks to improve the quality of West Virginia’s work force by providing students with paid cooperative work site educational opportunities. The Learn and Earn program is a salary cost share between employers and the State of West Virginia that allows students to earn money while attending college. It is intended to support students who are enrolled in programs that lead to high-need, highwage occupations. Students who are enrolled in one of the state’s community and technical college programs can receive a salary for ExEdge a cooperative or apprenticeship educaJ. Stanley Brown tional experience. Fifty percent of their and William salary is paid for by their employer, and Rainey Harper founded Joliet 50 percent is paid for by the state. A Win-Win Junior College, the nation’s first public community college, in 1901 as an experimental postgraduate high school program. Learn and Earn fills multiple objectives. It encourages students to enroll in high-need technical programs by allowing them to earn while learning. It also helps students complete their Source: www. academic programs and enter the work jjc.edu/about/ college-info/ force more quickly. Students in the Pages/history. program attend school full-time while aspx Universityearning a salary, which accelerates their degree completion. Students who work their way through school in low-wage jobs are often only able to afford part-time enrollment. Typically, it takes a part-time student twice as long to graduate as it does a full-time student, thus delaying their entry into high-need, high-wage occupations. www.wvexecutive.com summer 2014 49