While enrollments at community colleges and career and technical schools were greatly impacted by the global pandemic, a surge of news surrounding these institutions suggests that they might soon see a rebound in their numbers.
Some schools have already begun to see enrollments increase, and in recent months, the federal government and states like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have increased support for learners seeking career and technical training. Even corporations have expressed renewed interest in furthering skills-based education. Google recently announced it was dedicating $100 million to support students looking to further their skills training with Google’s online certificate courses.
The increase in funding and enrollments signals a growing public interest in alternatives to traditional college education. But what is driving this interest? And why should career and technical institutions consider boosting their recruitment efforts in the coming months?
Dissatisfaction with the current higher ed landscape has grown alongside the price of a college education, and the gap between the cost of traditional educations and the average pay for new graduates continues to widen. But it’s the pandemic’s recent impact that has many students questioning whether the four-year college experience is worth the price of admission: numerous pandemic restrictions remain in place; students who test positive and their close contacts are often still required to either quarantine or return home; many classes have maintained hybrid status; and many on campus-events continue to be postponed.
As the pandemic continued to impact the college experience and as student loan interest rates rise, many students—especially incoming freshmen—are becoming less willing to bear the expense. Add to this a growing demand for skills-driven jobs, and it seems likely that students will be eager to seek out alternative educations—ones that are less expensive and more effective at helping them jumpstart careers.
It’s not only incoming freshmen who might apply to career and technical schools in the coming months; adult learners may also be looking for more workforce training opportunities. What many are calling the great resignation seems, in actuality, to be a mass reevaluation of how careers align with values and lifestyle goals. Employees are leaving in droves and looking to reskill into areas of employment that offer more flexibility and better wages.
A recent Jenzabar survey revealed that one in three workers were looking for a new job or to change careers, and they were particularly interested in the lucrative fields of science, technology, and health. Nurses, nurse practitioners, and software developers, among other vocations, are considered to be some of the highest growth jobs in the next 10 years, and adult learners looking to go into these fields will need to invest in additional education.
Recent studies have revealed a growing skills gap between what employers need and what employees can offer, and this may be influencing the sudden influx of funding into technical and career education. While many companies are turning toward in-house training to try and close the gap, others are actively seeking to hire skilled workers.
The demand for skilled employees may very well be a reason for the uptick in career and technical enrollments. As employers seek strategies to close the skills gap, this will increase the urgency for learners to find programs that can give them the skills they need to earn the jobs they want.
Career and technical education programs looking to take advantage of this increasing momentum need to solidify a strong recruitment strategy. An important first step is figuring out how to differentiate your institution as well as ensure your program offerings respond to workforce demands, but an equally important second step is making sure your institution has the tools it needs to facilitate personalized messaging, stress-free admissions, competitive aid, and seamless enrollment processes.
Institutions with a modern student information system will be far more effective in their recruitment efforts than institutions that rely on outdated technology. Modern student information systems can possess built-in recruitment and admission functionality, allowing institutions to automate many elements of the recruitment process.
The easier it is for students to apply to your institution, the more likely it is that they will. Career and technical programs actively seeking a more robust student information system should look for solutions that uncomplicate the admissions process and cater to their specific type of institution. To actively recruit new learners, they’ll need a system that enables a more personalized, flexible education experience.
As you consider your recruitment strategies, consider whether you have the tools you need to take advantage of the current education and employment situations. With the right technology, career and technical schools can respond to shifting education and employment trends, boost enrollments, and grow their institutions.