Washington, D.C., Needs a Community College

By April 16, 2008Education and Training

The unemployment rate in Washington, D.C., is stuck around 6 percent, which means some 20,000 people without work in an area otherwise greatly insulated from an economic downturn and with an unemployment rate half that of the district’s. (Tables and graphs.)

Washington is beset with many social ills, adult illiteracy is high, and the public school system is in shambles (although Chancellor Michelle Rhee is certainly trying), but there’s one place a public policy change could well improve the jobs picture: Development of a community college for the city to supplant the failed land-grant institution, the University of the District of Columbia.

The Washington Times has been doing some much-needed reporting on the issue, pegged to this week’s release of a report by the D.C. Appleseed Center and the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. Tied to that is more focus on technical and vocational training. From “Community Colleges Seen as Essential“:

Matthew Yeo, a private lawyer who works with D.C. Appleseed on work-force development issues, said the District also needs to improve vocational training.

“Our system of moving the working poor into more stable and higher paying jobs has really broken down,” he said. “Even compared to other cities, the District hasn’t done a particularly good job at this.”

And even though the District lacks any significant manufacturing sector — and no disrespect meant to the small manufacturing shops that do good work here — vocational training that gave students the skills to succeed in the manufacturing sector could do much.

Also to be commended, a Washington Times editorial, “‘A Different Way’ for UDC.”

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