My Turn: N.H. community colleges are critical to workforce development

For the Monitor
Published: 12/17/2019 6:15:15 AM

As we wrap up the 100th anniversary year of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, I want to pause and reflect on the many people and partners who provide the opportunities, strengthen relationships and enhance the quality of life in our region. It is an honor to serve this incredible collection of business and community leaders, especially given the way our community comes together to support one another in good times and in challenging times.

As we have read in the media recently, NHTI has faced such a challenge in the form of a larger than forecasted drop in its enrollment. As a member of the NHTI Advisory Board, I am very familiar with the people who lead the institution and the programs offered to students. It is an outstanding community college with a long history of helping people from all backgrounds and all walks of life achieve their dreams. NHTI graduates pepper our region’s workforce. They are well-trained and they contribute to our strong economy and quality of life.

As the president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, I cannot emphasize more the value and importance of a healthy and thriving community college system. Businesses in this region rely upon NHTI to be a workforce pipeline. One of the most critical elements of the school’s culture is its ability to adjust to the changing needs of our business leaders. No school can expect to avoid changes and remain relevant in a competitive workforce environment. NHTI offers meaningful pathways to diplomas and certification in a wide variety of career fields.

Another critical element for long-term success is the ability to lead through temporary setbacks and challenges, such as the temporary drop in enrollment. One of the most impressive components of the response to this challenge is that no programs available to students were eliminated as NHTI moved to close a sudden budget gap.

In the meantime, NHTI has taken this opportunity to review and enhance its recruitment and marketing efforts to boost enrollment. Some of that work includes a full review of the academic program offerings with an eye toward what is working and what may need changes, updates or an overhaul. As a business leader, I applaud that effort. Any program that is serving the best interests of students and employers should be enhanced and supported. Any program that is not viable should be phased out; that’s the approach taken in the business world and it should be the same approach in the world of higher education.

Too often, the acrimony around a challenge turns into a blame game, with the stakes rising to their highest level and emotions churning a debate into a community-wide firestorm. I would hope in this case, as NHTI adjusts to current challenges, that our entire community would support the student-centered efforts of school leaders to provide an outstanding academic environment and programs that will lead people to great-paying, local jobs. With unemployment hovering in the 3% range, talent recruitment has become a critical economic issue. Businesses are hiring and schools like NHTI can help fill those job vacancies.

Our community colleges provide an open door of opportunity for all students. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of academic interest, personal background, or financial need, visit schools like NHTI to help them achieve their goals and realize their dreams. There will always be challenges, but if we all work together, our future will continue to be one of collective prosperity, growth, opportunity and true community here in the Capital Region.

(Tim Sink is the president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce.)




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