The Role of Community College Education in the Employment of Information Technology Workers in Washington State
Understanding the role of subbaccalaureate programs in preparing students for the workforce has become increasingly important, particularly in quickly changing fields that require well-trained technical workers, such as information technology (IT). To better understand the role of community colleges in educating IT workers, we examined two key issues: (1) students' employment outcomes by the type of community college IT preparation they complete, and (2) the type of employers that tend to hire community college IT students. Specifically, we analyzed data on students who were enrolled in an IT program at any Washington State community and technical college during the 2000-01 academic year and who completed their program or left college by the spring of the 2004-05 academic year. We examined information on students' course-taking in college and their employment before, during, and after their college enrollment. Our investigation of employment outcomes by type of community college preparation suggests that employers prefer workers with higher-level credentials. Of the four groups we analyzed, students with both an associate degree and a certificate in IT had the strongest employment outcomes in terms of likelihood of employment, hours worked, and earnings. They were followed by students with an IT associate degree, and then by students with an IT certificate. Students who earned no credential but concentrated their study in IT by completing four or more courses had the weakest employment outcomes, underscoring the importance of completing full programs and earning a credential. Compared with workers overall, IT students were more likely to work for medium sized employers. They were also more likely to be employed in temporary services and educational services industries. Our findings highlight the importance of community college efforts to engage with the full range of local employers as well as the potential need for different engagement strategies, depending on the employer.
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