Community colleges reaching out to high schools

09/19/2013 by Joey Cresta

PORTSMOUTH — The leaders of the Community College System of New Hampshire say they need to reach out more to high schools about what it's going to take to prepare young people for a work force that demands a strong base in math and science.

The community college system comprises seven schools across the state, including Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth. Ross Gittell, chancellor of the system, and Paul Holloway, chairman of CCSNH, met with the Portsmouth Herald editorial board Wednesday to discuss some of the system's latest initiatives.

Earlier this summer, Great Bay Community College opened a new satellite location in Rochester called the Advanced Technology and Academic Center. The center provides an outlet for those living farther away from Portsmouth a chance to take general education or liberal arts courses, but its driving factor is the training opportunities it provides in advanced composite manufacturing.

The community college is collaborating with Rochester businesses Albany Engineered Composites and Safran, suppliers of components for the Boeing Dreamliner, providing those companies a pipeline of well-trained workers equipped with the skills in math and computer science that are required in advanced manufacturing jobs.

That pipeline was a crucial piece to a partnership that Gittell and Holloway said will create some 400 jobs for the state. However, both said more needs to be done to foster an appreciation for math much earlier than the college level. The community college system is looking to work with high schools to make that happen, they said.

"It's such a battle," Holloway said. "A lot of kids are scared of math."

One cost-effective program that has helped make some gains in this area is Running Start, a dual-enrollment program that provides students a means to take classes at their high school and receive both high school and college credit. Holloway said the program gives teenagers a sense of accomplishment and shows some who may not be confident in their skills that they are able to handle college-level work.

Community college officials are now in the midst of efforts to further reach out to high schools across the state. Gittell said they have identified two high schools in each community college area that have lower-than-desired postsecondary matriculation rates. In the Great Bay region, those high schools are in Dover and Rochester, he said.

The plan, Gittell said, is to meet with the principals of those schools and work to promote the affordable and alternative pathways to career success that CCSNH is providing. He and Holloway said they are hopeful their efforts will continue to steer young people toward the pipeline that is pumping out the state's skilled work force.

"We continue to be on a strong growth path," Gittell said.