By: Yolanda Rivas
2 min read December 2019 — Beyond typical degree programs, South New Jersey’s Camden County College is challenged to keep up with demand for certifying students like automobile technicians and machinists. The school is attracting increased involvement from local business and the industrial community to tailor its courses to the market’s demands. The Invest: team recently spoke with Camden County College President Donald Borden, who highlighted the areas of growth for the college and the region’s workforce.
Which of the college’s programs are experiencing more demand?
We have the most certification programs in southern New Jersey. In terms of what is in demand, we can’t keep our machinists on the floor. Companies come to hire them as soon as they become proficient. Students trained in robotics, automobile tech and optometry all find work after graduating. We offer some of those programs that are not traditionally seen as higher ed, but they have been in very high demand. We also continue to graduate students in the areas of business and education, as well as criminal justice, to name a few. The important factor is to have the connections that provide students with opportunities, such as the police academy, which we oversee here in Camden County.
As the college’s 2017-2020 strategic plan winds down, what factors will be central to the next plan?
We are already working on our next strategic plan. What is encouraging is that much of the focus in our town halls or when talking to our stakeholders is making sure our strategic plan includes partnering with business and industry. We have really increased the number of businesses and industries on our advisory boards, and my view is that we have to be servants to those individuals. It used to be that higher education was a “take it or leave it” proposition, but now we need to understand what the business community needs from our graduates. They have an opportunity to weigh in on our curricula and program development. As a result, when our graduates enter the local business community it helps them, it helps the business community and industry, and it helps the community in general.
What impact is technology having on education?
It is not just instructional. When you talk about automobile techs, I don’t think they can be called mechanics anymore. They are technicians who are very involved in the computer technology business. I think that is true in almost any area. How does that affect us? Instructionally, we need to be meeting the needs of those businesses and industries, which is where the advisory boards and partnerships come in. We need to know what kind of equipment our students need to be trained on. That is true of both certification programs and degree programs.
In addition, sometimes we need to rely on those partners to help us with equipment, because of financial issues. But even beyond that, our students live in that world on a day-to-day basis, so we try to help them. More students are simply living their education through technology. We are also expanding our online programs, which is an area of focus as we work to have more degree options available online.
What main challenges is the college and the education sector in South Jersey dealing with?
One of the main challenges for all of us is fewer traditional students graduating from high school. That population is diminishing and that makes it more competitive for all the institutions that serve those students.
Another challenge that we face, and which is very typical in public institutions, is state and federal funding. Our county has been extremely generous. Most recently, the community college opportunity grant has had an influence on how we do business. It provides every student making $65,000 or less in combined yearly family income with free tuition at local community colleges.
To learn more about our interviewee, visit:
Camden County College: https://www.camdencc.edu/