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Community College Students are an Overlooked Talent Pipeline

Nolvia Delgado

Nolvia Delgado on the increased relevance of community colleges in filling the skills gap

In February, the Kaplan Educational Foundation tapped Nolvia Delgado, an alumna of its highly selective Kaplan Leadership Program, as its new Executive Director, realizing the program’s mission of providing high-potential, underrepresented community college students with the opportunity to attend top four-year universities, and to become leaders in their professions and communities. Delgado, a graduate of Borough of Manhattan Community College (‘09) and Smith College (‘11), shared her thoughts on community colleges and today’s workforce.

What are some of the misconceptions about community college students?

What many don’t appreciate is that community college students are just as ambitious and talented as students at four-year universities – they just don’t have the same exposure and opportunities. Most community college students want to transfer to four-year colleges – but most aren’t able to make that transition to that next step in the learning journey. This is why we need to focus on addressing and removing the barriers that prevent transfer.

How do you think community colleges can play a role in addressing the skills gap in today’s workforce?

A key barrier community college students face is a lack of social capital – that network of relationships that supports an individual’s professional growth and development. I think there are opportunities for community colleges to help their students understand the importance of networking, to teach those skills and to build that social capital in a way that enables community college students to fill some of the roles for which they might otherwise be overlooked.

What are some of the ways in which four-year colleges and employers can better partner with community colleges?

While several four year colleges have strong support systems in place for community college transfer, most do not. This means not only having a transfer pipeline in place, but also working with community colleges to understand the challenges faced by first generation college students, many of whom are working and taking care of family. This can require an extra level of social emotional support and counseling. On the employer side, a key area would be in creating more work-based learning opportunities and expanding internship opportunities.

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