April 26, 2022

An unexpected byproduct of the COVID economy in New Hampshire is the persistent need to find workers to fill a variety of job positions. “Help Wanted” signs hang in front of every industry. There’s no sector that finds itself with plenty of people.

The pandemic triggered a lot of self-reflection; many people left the career field completely through early retirement. Still others have changed course and found a new path that better reflects a new set of life priorities.

Despite the scatter drill of New Hampshire’s workforce, one thing is clear: in order to steel ourselves against a repeat of this exercise, we must start earlier and work longer to build a workforce.

In response to the evolving workforce needs, Manchester Community College is rethinking its relationships and doubling down on building a local workforce that meets short and long-term needs in our state.

For example, MCC has established partnerships with the city of Manchester and the Manchester School District.

Last year, we began our partnership with Gear Up Manchester by hosting students on campus. Our program was “summer camp” meets “career fair”, where students blended fun activities with academic classes and “show and tell” tours of various career fields that exist here in greater Manchester. From robotics to science to HVAC to nursing, 8th and 9th graders were exposed to all sorts of possibilities. The idea is pretty simple: introduce young people to these exciting options, then show them the pathway for how to enter the field. We got incredible feedback on this Gear Up partnership. One student has chosen to pursue a career in nursing because of what she was exposed to through our program. They and many others now envision college in their futures. We will host Gear Up Manchester again this summer for a whole new crop of local students who are literally trying to figure out what they want to be and do when they grow up.

Starting early is a lesson we have learned from the current times. It takes years to build a workforce pipeline and we have discovered that critical decisions about the future are often made in middle school and early high school. We are also partnering with agencies that are working with those families whose children weren’t born in the US, but are now settled in our communities and have joined our education system. The International Institute of New England is one such partner helping train a new generation of workers. This is a pool of talent that has unique educational needs, but can make equally unique and important contributions to our workforce. We have found these partnerships build a connection to this community that creates a loyalty to the area and fills the employment needs both immediate and long-term.

For students about to enter the workforce from high school, but aren’t yet completely sure what they want to do, we are working on a Summer Bridge program at MCC for graduating seniors. Families should never feel they have to face these crossroads alone; we are here to help them explore their options and map out a route for career success. Our flexible programs and academic offerings empower everyone to pick a path and find their purpose.

Elsewhere, we are working with city leaders on the new “Manchester Promise” program, recently highlighted by Mayor Joyce Craig in her State of the City address. Funded by the Federal government, Southern New Hampshire University and Manchester Community College are proud to work with families to help students graduate from college debt-free. We know that for many, college feels out of reach because of financial limitations. Families have a new resource to help them pay for college and leave with a diploma but without the heavy weight of debt. This is a worthy investment and we are thrilled to participate in it.

Partnership is the way forward. We have to work together and collaborate with shared resources and shared goals if we are to educate the next generation and fill the workforce pipeline for both today and tomorrow. These partnerships are true to Manchester Community College‘s mission to “promote and foster the intellectual, cultural and economic vibrancy of our region.”