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NECC Prepares Students for Middle-Skill Jobs

Submitted by on November 2, 2011 – 1:08 pm

Over the next five years, Massachusetts employers will hire 400,000 new workers for middle-skill jobs, those requiring more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. At Northern Essex, 63% of students are enrolled in certificate and associate degree programs leading to middle-skill jobs in fields such as health care, law, criminal justice, science and technology, and other career technical programs.

Middle-skill job preparation is important since there is a significant gap between the job prospects of a high school graduate and the opportunities available to an associate degree graduate with middle-skill credentials. According to a policy brief released by the Brookings Institute, an associate degree graduate earns 33% more than someone with only a high school diploma. With just a year or two of education, local residents can jump from a minimum wage job to a well-paying position in a growing field.

A Degree Made the Difference for this NECC Grad

When Shannon Sheltra’s partner died six years ago of a heart attack, she quickly learned that she was ill-prepared to support her family of four with just a high school education.

She knew she needed to continue her education and prepare for a stable career and for this she turned to Northern Essex, enrolling in the college’s respiratory care program, a two-year, associate degree program which prepares students to work with physicians and nurses to diagnose and treat lung and breathing disorders.

Shannon graduated from the college in May and is now supporting her family, working as a respiratory therapist at Spaulding Hospital North Shore.

In Partnership with Employers, NECC Continues to Develop New Programs

Shannon’s story illustrates the tremendous earning gap which exists between individuals with a high school degree and those with a two-year college education and the critical role Northern Essex and other community colleges can play in bridging this gap.

Working in close partnership with area employers, Northern Essex continues to develop new programs to prepare local residents for middle-skill jobs, including the associate of science degree in lab science, which graduated its first class in May, and, in recent years, programs in sleep technology, emergency medicine, and help desk technology.

The college’s new Allied Health & Technology Center, which is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013, will allow the college to expand its offerings even further, creating additional programs in high-demand health fields.