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Economic and Workforce Development

Every five years, Cumberland County College develops a new strategic plan to assess the changes in conditions and trends that may affect its market and the composition of its academic curriculum and programs. Community Colleges have long played important roles in business attraction, retention and in meeting local labor force training needs. Consequently, changes in economic trends and conditions can have very direct impacts on the College’s ability to recruit students, provide assistance to the business community, and define its course offerings. According to an article in the March 2010 edition of University Business, it is more important than ever that community colleges address the changing economic and workforce demands of the community. Colleges from around the nation are expanding partnerships, reaching out to non-traditional age cohorts, and brainstorming ways to meet the new challenges of the workplace.

 

This section of the White Paper examines economic and workforce conditions and trends in Cumberland County and the surrounding region. The paper provides a summary of the more detailed report and data scan assembled for the College by Triad Associates, the firm engaged to provide the economic analysis.

 

The purpose of this paper is to provide those individuals participating in the planning meetings, to be held by the College in September 2011, with a general background on economic and workforce statistics, community sentiment, and other information that may be relevant to adjusting or amending the College’s Strategic Plan. The paper focuses on several areas of interest.

 

The College’s Client Base. As an academic institution, the College serves many clients. First, its existing student body benefits from the range of programs and course offerings provided by the institution. There is also a potential market in the broader community for enhancing and expanding the student body. In addition, the business community benefits from the various labor force, job training and other programs offered at the College. So, the first pages of this white paper examine the client base of the College and explore trends that may affect program and curriculum.  The Regional Economy and Implications for Job Placement. Once students leave the College, they look for jobs in the greater southern New Jersey Region. Changes in the regional economy affect the prospects for jobs. This white paper examines current conditions and trends.  Strategic Plan Outreach. The third element of the white paper examines public comment stemming from a community outreach effort that included both a business survey and two focus group meetings. All of the information then leads to a definition of economic and workforce issues that need to be discussed at the September planning meetings.

 

Conditions And Trends
 The College’s Client Base is first and foremost its student population. Current enrollment figures put this population at 4,291 full and part time students. 89% of these students are from Cumberland County. A majority (56%) of those students with residence outside the County come from either Gloucester or Salem Counties. As the College seeks to maintain or, in fact, expand its student enrollment, it is important to examine the demographic changes that are occurring both locally and regionally that may impact on this ability.

In the course of preparing the Economic and Workforce Development analysis, College officials indicated that the typical service area for the College is within a 30 Minute Drive Time of the campus. So, demographic trends were examined within both the County and a 30 Minute Drive Time Region, (see graphic on the right.) Findings are as follows:

Both Cumberland County and its surrounding region have populations growing faster than the State, which is a positive finding for the College;  The numbers of traditional college aged individuals, 18-24 years of age, however, are declining in Cumberland County and increasing only very modestly in the 30 Minute Drive Time Region.  Population increases in the 25-40 age cohort are also increasing modestly;  Population growth is significant in the older, population cohorts 55-74 years of age;  The Hispanic population in the County and to a lesser extent the region, is growing at a faster pace than the population as a whole;  There is a high concentration of individuals, 25 years of age and older, without high school diplomas located in and around Cumberland County;  Conversely, the areas where there is a concentration of individuals with College degrees (bachelor’s degrees) are located outside of the County;  Incomes in the region remain depressed relative to the rest of the State and coupled with rising transportation costs, place the College in a strong position to serve students bound for postsecondary education.

The other primary client base that the College has is the business community. Businesses often engage the College for assistance with workforce training, an analysis of business conditions, or some other aspect of the local or regional market that assists local businesses meet their development goals. The characteristics of the Cumberland County economy show large percentages of both the numbers of companies and the County’s employment base in several economic sectors. Table 1 compares the County’s economic characteristics to those of the 30 Minute Drive Time Region.

 



As can be seen from this table, the composition of the greater Cumberland County Region is comparable to that of the County. There are only two sectors where the percentage of individuals employed in those sectors varies more than 2%. Those are the service and public administration sectors. The region has a larger percentage of its employment base engaged in services because it encompasses some significant additional employers such as Rowan University. The public employment sector is a larger percentage of the County’s employment base because of the significant number of correctional facilities located there. Greater than 60% of employment, both in the County and region, is concentrated in four sectors: manufacturing, retail trade, services and government.

 

A closer look at the service sector indicates that it is dominated by three sub-sectors: educational services, health services, and hospitality services (hotel and restaurant.) These subsectors comprise over 80% of the total service sector employment in both the County and region.

 

Survey and Outreach

As of August 5, 2011, there were 133 responses to the online survey that was prepared and distributed by Triad Associates to business leaders in the community through Constant Contact a web-based survey tool. Survey Findings include some very good news for the College. The great majority of survey respondents – in excess of 80% in some cases – know about the College’s various degree programs and affiliations with other educational institutions. The College is apparently doing a very good job within the leadership of the business community to get the word out about its curriculum and the services it offers to business.

 

Additionally, over 70% of respondents who stated that they had hired or worked with a Cumberland County College graduate indicated a high level of satisfaction with the employee’s skills and abilities as they related to the job in question. When asked, however, to identify a role that the College could play in assisting businesses train today’s labor force, basic skills training remains among the most identified subject areas. Other training suggestions for today’s workforce that scored highly in the survey included training in technology fields, customized programs, healthcare, business skills, and alternative energy fields. When the question shifted to future training needs, computer/technology training remained high on the list along with management; health care; various business and managerial fields including hospitality training, accounting, and marketing; and green energy.

 

As another component of the community outreach, two focus group sessions were held at the College to discuss economic and workforce development issues. The discussions stressed several economic trends and conditions that will dominate the College’s strategic planning efforts in the coming five year period.


 

Dismal Pace of Economic Recovery. Not many companies are hiring today and the likelihood that the pace of hiring will accelerate any time soon is slim. Therefore, the College will have to be more aggressive in its outreach to the business community and the delivery of its services. Increasing its networking efforts; assisting with the management of workforce turnover; and focusing on those industry sectors where jobs are in demand will be essential. Small Business Margins. Because those businesses currently in operation are working off of very small margins, enhancing the efficiency of operations is a key business issue. Providing the technical assistance in management, workforce training, or new processes that enhance production techniques and/or the delivery of products and services are roles the College can provide. Service Delivery Changes. Companies may not be able to send staff to the College for training. The College may have to go to the company either through On-the-Job Training in cooperation with the Cumberland One-Stop Center or provide remote training through webinars and on-line courses.

Next Steps

This white paper summarizes the characteristics, conditions, challenges and needs facing the Cumberland County economy and their implications for the County College. This is one in a series of studies undertaken to assist the College in updating its Strategic Plan. From this information, College officials and community stakeholders can gain some sense of how current program goals line up with the existing and anticipated characteristics of economy and workforce. Decisions can be made about changes that may be needed in economic development and training curriculum; other academic programming; and the College’s marketing and outreach efforts.

 

The findings from this report will be melded with the results of other analyses from which a number of key issues and opportunities will be identified. Through the College leadership and the planning meetings to be held in September 2011, the Cumberland County College Strategic Plan 2012-2017 will be developed.