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Evaluation of Northwest P Pennsylvania's l i ' Workforce W kf Development and Educational Challenges and Opportunities June 2009

P Prepared d ffor: County of Erie, Pennsylvania Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership Northwest Industrial Resource Center REthink Erie


Duplication or reproduction of this document, in whole or in part, via any method is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the Clements Group. All rights reserved. Š 2009 The Clements Group, L.C.


ii -1

TABLE OF CONTENTS Section

Subject

Pages

I

Executive Overview ....................................................

I 1- 3

II

Introduction ..............................................................

II 1- 6

III

Feasibility Study Interviews.........................................

III 1- 21

IV

Forums .....................................................................

IV 1- 12

V

Online Survey ............................................................

V 1- 19

VI

Summary of Other Economic and Educational Data.......

VI 1- 18

VII

Summary of Significant Findings Across Methodologies .

VII 1- 8

VIII

Recommendations .....................................................

VIII 1- 6

IX

Conclusion ................................................................

IX 1- 1

A

Client Project Team ....................................................

A 1- 4

B

Interview Results .......................................................

B 1- 24

C

Forum Results ...........................................................

C 1- 284

D

Online Survey Results.................................................

D 1- 32

E

Instruments Used ......................................................

E 1- 174

Appendices

I Interview Form ................................... E 3-16 II Forum Survey Questions ..................... E 17-112 III Online Surveys ................................... E 113-143

F

Secondary Research Data and Sources ........................

F 1-24

G

About the Clements Group ..........................................

G 1-4


Executive Overview In September 2008, the Clements Group (CG) was engaged by the Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC) to conduct a study to help the organization, and its partner organizations, identify the region’s workforce development and educational needs and determine the feasibility of creating a regional community college. To accomplish this goal, the study would need to, in part: 

Determine the need for a community college in the service area and the desire of the citizenry to support a community college

Accurately identify and reflect the needs of the region’s business community as part of this community college initiative

The study design included three methodologies. First, nearly 100 regional stakeholders were interviewed in December 2008. These one-on-one interviews included questions about regional economic, workforce, and educational issues. The interviews also included questions about the need for a community college, whether or not it would be important to have a community college, and, if so, what types of services should be provided and what types of challenges and concerns would need to be addressed. Second, a series of eight community forums were conducted. Several of these forums included specific industry and community sectors, and the others included those who would be served by a community college including high-school students, their parents, and adult learners. Third, an online survey was conducted to gather additional input from the community. In total, about 2,300 stakeholders were involved in the study. Finally, the methodology also included a review of existing data about the regional economic, workforce, and educational climate. The study design included gathering information from Erie, Crawford, and Warren counties. The data was very clear about the need to provide additional educational resources for the Erie region. Specific concerns included the size of the current and future labor pool and whether there is adequate training available; the need to provide education and training opportunities to prepare people for specific occupational areas that are, or will be, needed; the need to provide training support for employers and employees; the need to provide opportunities for underskilled or underemployed adult workers that may not take advantage of existing opportunities; and the need to provide affordable, flexible, and accessible educational options.


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The data were also very clear throughout the study that there is a high level of support for a community college. Over two-thirds of the interview respondents indicated a community college was very important for the region. Likewise, nearly three-fourths of the forum respondents indicated a community college was either very or somewhat important for the region. Over twothirds of respondents across all methodologies thought there would be enough students to support a community college. The only exception was the parents group in the online survey, where 60 percent indicated there would be enough students. The study indicates support for a community college offering both college transfer programs and career programs (i.e., programs for direct job entry). Additional programs receiving substantial support were shorter-term certificate programs, lifelong learning, continuing education, and onsite programs for business and industry. Study respondents also raised some concerns, including the need to cultivate support for the college among residents. Respondents also cited concerns about maintaining affordability and flexibility, and assuring the community college programs and services remained aligned with community and regional needs. There was also concern about the ongoing cost of a community college, and therefore support for looking at alternate funding strategies. The strength of existing postsecondary options was noted by many respondents. Many also suggested that a community college should explore ways to partner with existing schools and colleges. Some of the results were very encouraging both for a potential community college and for regional planners. For example, over 50 percent of the students in the high-school forum indicated a desire to remain in the Erie region either after high school or after college. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents in the interviews indicated a willingness to personally contribute to help make a community college successful. Over 80 percent indicated they would be willing to serve on an advisory board or committee to help with a community college. There were dozens of items in the three methodologies that provided information that can be used in future planning, whether for a community college, economic development, or other purposes. For that reason, it is important to review the report in its entirety to help provide context for the data summary and recommendations, and for finding information that can be used for other purposes. After analyzing the data and providing a summary of the major findings, the report makes five major recommendations. These recommendations include: 1. Create a regional community college with a goal to begin service as soon as practical. 2. Offer both career and college transfer options.


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3. Develop a regional community college governing system that is accountable to stakeholders. 4. Establish partnerships where it is mutually beneficial. 5. Look for innovative ways to fund the college. It is important to note that this study addressed questions related to the needs and potential support for a community college. While the results indicate need to provide additional educational resources for the Erie region and support for a community college, and a recommendation is made based upon those results, the final decision is a local and regional one. Also, there are many issues that are beyond the scope of this study, including operational structure, finances, business planning, and others. If the community decides to move forward, these issues will need to be addressed in subsequent studies, or in a future community college application.

Â


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Section II – Introduction A. Project Overview In September 2008, the Clements Group (CG) was engaged by the Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC) to conduct a study to help the organization, and its partner organizations, identify the region’s workforce development and educational needs and determine the feasibility of creating a regional community college. Part of the Pennsylvania state requirement for approving a new college states: “A comprehensive feasibility study must be performed to justify the need for a community college in the service area and the desire of the citizenry to support a college. The study is to look at all aspects of the community that comprise the proposed service area of the college.” Prior to CG’s involvement with the project, the NWIRC, the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership (ERCGP), and other regional stakeholders held many discussions concerning the need for a community college and its potential impact on regional economic and community development. In other words, would a community college enhance future economic development efforts? The NWIRC, ERCGP, and many other groups have developed substantial economic development initiatives over the past several years as can be seen in publications, on various Web sites, and in revitalization efforts. Even with this economic development activity, there are concerns as to whether there are sufficient education and training resources available to meet current and anticipated workforce needs. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent of these current and anticipated workforce needs, and to gather data that could be used for future regional planning and for a community college application, if the decision was made to move forward. To serve this purpose, the study included specific expectations to: 

Determine the need for a community college in the service area and the desire of the citizenry to support a community college

Accurately identify and reflect the needs of the region’s business community as part of this community college initiative

Establish a sustainable, systematic approach to gather counsel from the region’s businesses and industries that could inform both economic and workforce development efforts and a potential community college’s programs and services

Develop appropriate survey instrument(s) that will meet the needs of the community college application, as well as the needs of economic development and workforce development services


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Define a process through which the survey instrument(s) can be effectively deployed to gather adequate, relevant, statistically valid, and timely (current, one-year, threeyear, and five-year demand) data for the community college application, and to support ongoing economic and workforce development efforts

Develop a database to capture and analyze responses gathered through deployment of the survey instrument(s)

Additionally, the study also included methodology to gather counsel from representatives of community service organizations (including government) and the educational community. To best accomplish these tasks, and engage as many stakeholders as practical, CG used a multilayered, three-step approach in order to gather information and conduct the necessary primary research. The steps in this approach were: 

Conduct comprehensive interviews with key stakeholders representing several community interest groups

Conduct a series of forums that would be designed around interest groups

Gather additional input from all interested parties using an open-ended online survey

The Clements Group also gathered secondary data from the research reports, statistical reports, and other sources that would provide appropriate context and benchmarking for the study. The first step of this multi-layered primary research approach was the interview process. The Clements Group has conducted several thousand feasibility study interviews in the past and the technique has proven a reliable and strong predictor of community opinion. Generally, about 50 to 60 interviews are conducted. For this study, however, in order to make sure all community sectors were well represented, nearly 100 interviews were completed. The purpose of these interviews was to engage each individual on a one-one-one basis in order to gather advice, counsel, and observations about the economic and educational climate of the Erie region (Erie, Crawford and Warren counties). Questions as to whether or not a community college should be created would be included in the interviews. The interviews would also serve as a means to gather information about potential programs and services that could be provided. This information could then be used in a state application, if needed. Interviews alone, although informative, would not provide all of the information needed for an application, nor would they present the full picture of the economic climate. Therefore, CG used a forum as the second step in the approach to gather data. A forum is a group process where individuals representing like interests are brought together to share opinions and ideas. It is typically used as the basis of developing partnerships or in creating strategic plans. In the context of this study, the forum step of the approach would be used as a means to look for consensus of opinions about both economic concerns and the feasibility of the community college. Eight separate forums were held: 1) manufacturing; 2) healthcare; 3) finance, insurance, real estate, and tourism; 4) community services; 5) educational partners; 6) adult learners;


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7) parents; and 8) high-school students. The forums served the additional purpose of gathering data that would be needed if an application were submitted. The third step of the approach was to gather information from all interested parties regarding the proposed community college by developing and implementing a survey instrument offered online for a limited period of time. The information gathered would be helpful to the extent that it might provide verification or amplification of what was learned in the other two approaches. The caution was that it could not serve as a referendum about the project, since it was not statistically valid. The online survey was made available for ten days, during which time over 2000 responses were logged. The online survey had two components. Everyone was presented with the core survey; however, based upon the participant’s selection on the demographics page, business people, parents, adult learners, and high-school students were directed to additional questions. Early in the study, a decision needed to be made about the geographical scope of the research. Previous efforts had focused primarily on Erie County because of the requirements for a local financial sponsor. In reviewing the demographic data and proximity of other public community colleges, CG recommended a regional approach that also included Crawford and Warren counties. Therefore, the research and all methodologies included representation from all three counties. In addition to the specific research efforts outlined above, the lead CG consultant also conducted monthly visits to Erie. During these visits, he met with client representatives, committees that had been formed to aid in the project, community and county officials, and legislators. Periodic updates were presented along with preliminary results from the research as they became known. It should also be noted that the research study was included as part of an overall collaborative initiative called REthink Erie (www.rethinkerie.com). All research instruments used in the study were reviewed by the appropriate team members and work groups involved in the effort.

B. The Clements Team Rich Gross, Ph.D., served as the lead consultant on the project. His background includes over 25 years of community college administrative and national consulting work, as well as service as a community college president. Mr. Geoff Little served as both interviewer and the leader of the forum component. Mr. Little’s background includes over 25 years of company management, as well as significant experience with regional economic development efforts. He has conducted forums on behalf of CG for several years. Diane Gross, Ph.D., and Mr. Scott Lyons, both CG associates, also conducted interviews. Both have extensive educational backgrounds, including community college experience.


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C. Timeline Study activities occurred over a period of six months, as follows: Year

Month/Date

2008 September

Activity 

2008 October – November 

Project commences Site visits

Meetings with committee

List development for interviews and forums

2008 December

Interview process

2009 January

Forums

2009 February

Online survey

2009 March 23rd

Draft final report due

2009 April 1st

Final report due

D. Report Structure The remaining sections of the report are as follows: 

Section III – Feasibility Study Interviews This section provides an overview of the interview process, the results of the interviews, and comments about relevant data. The section concludes with a summary of the major results.

Section IV – Forums This section provides an overview of the forum process and the results in two groups: 1. Employer group – the three industry sectors, the community services sectors, and the educational partners 2. User group – parents, adult learners, and high-school students This section concludes with a summary of the major results for each group.

Section V – Online Survey This section provides an overview of the online survey process; the results of the core survey; and the additional question sets directed at the business group, the students, parents, and adult learners groups. This section concludes with a summary of the major results for each question set.


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Section VI – Summary of Economic and Educational Data This section includes a review of previous reports, research, and other data that bear on the current study. There are two parts to the section: the first reviews information about the economic climate, and the second looks at the educational climate. Each part of this section is summarized and major conclusions are presented.

Section VII – Summary of Significant Findings Across Methodologies This section provides a narrative overview of the major findings as indicated by issues and variables that received similar ratings across the methodologies.

Section VIII – Recommendations Ten recommendations for further action are presented based on the results of the study.

Section IX – Conclusion This brief section contains concluding remarks.

Appendices This section contains all of the data that was used in the study. It also contains a list of the client project team, reference material on secondary data sources, samples of the instruments used, and the individual reports from each of the forums. Additional background information about the Clements Group is also included.

E. Research Components 

Secondary Data Sources Some of the secondary data sources are noted in the Section VI narrative and in other parts of the report as necessary. Although all of these data sources were consulted, not all were used in the report. Some contained duplicate information, or were used to provide background information or context. A complete list of these data sources is included in Appendix F. Secondary data was derived from three primary sources: some data was gathered as the result of consultant research, other data was provided by the client (based on previous research or recent reports), and some data was gathered using CG internal sources.


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Research Instruments Samples of the three research instruments (based on previous research conducted by the Clements Group) – the feasibility study interview form, sample forum questions, and the online survey – are included in Appendix E. These instruments can be used by the NWIRC and its partner organizations in the future for follow-up research.

F. Study Limitations The following limitations for this study need to be highlighted: 

The use of data from the online survey was for comparison purposes only, and the results were used where they provided additional data or context for information gathered through other methods. The survey was not designed to be statistically valid.

One purpose of this study was to gather data relative to the educational and economic resources of the region. Another purpose was to gather data that would be used in making a determination about a future community college. Its purpose was not to make that determination for the client. The results of this study need to be interpreted accordingly.

This study used timely data that was gathered for the purposes outlined previously. The validity of data gathered in interviews or forums cannot be guaranteed if used at a point in the future. It is strongly recommended that the client or community repeat the surveys periodically in order to ensure timely data.

This study addresses the study questions as outlined in the review of project deliverables (presented earlier in this section). Should a community college be started, there remain a number of issues such as budget, finances, operational structure, specific relationships between interested stakeholders, etc., that will still need to be determined and are outside the scope of this study. Those determinations would constitute the next level of project development.


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Section III: Feasibility Study Interviews 1. Interview Process and Format The feasibility study interview process is so named because it is a technique that has been used by CG for over 20 years in determining the feasibility of a proposed action or process. In this study, it was one of the three primary techniques for gathering information relative to the regional status of higher education, regional workforce needs, overall postsecondary opportunities, and regional economic climate. The data gathered through the process can then be used to help determine the feasibility of possible actions affecting both areas. The process itself is straightforward. Our goal was to conduct one-on-one interviews with a large group of stakeholders and gather their responses to a set of questions, as well as to ask participants several open-ended questions to gather ideas, comments, and suggestions. To the extent that there is congruity in responses, we can make assumptions about attitudes relative to the ideas and concepts discussed in the interviews. This process has proven to be remarkably accurate in predicting the strength of support, or lack of support, for the issues discussed. It can be a good indicator of future action that is not always indicated by traditional survey methods. For the purposes of this project, we used the feasibility study process to address several issues: a. What are the interviewees’ opinions about the current economic climate of the region? b. What are the challenges and opportunities for economic development now and in the future? c. Are current educational opportunities sufficient to address needs relative to current and future economic development challenges and opportunities? d. Would the creation of a regional community college be a feasible option for addressing these needs? e. If so, what should the priorities of such a college be? f. What would be the major challenges or concerns if a community college is proposed? Following initial meetings with representatives of the client, including the NWIRC, Erie County, ERCGP, and others from REthink Erie’s Economic Developer Work Group representing multiple regional agencies, an initial question set was developed. This question set was reviewed several times between October and November 2008. The final question set was prepared, and the interviews took place between December 8 and 12, 2008. The interview form had four sections (A-D); each section focused on a specific aspect of the study. Section A included ten questions and sub-items related to community and regional economic conditions and trends. Section B included six questions and sub-items and focused


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on interviewee reactions toward the creation of a community college, as well as priorities, should a community college be developed. Section C included four major questions with several sub-items related to the types of education and training delivery for support of business and industry, as well as other general support items. The final section, Section D, included four additional general questions about both the potential of a community college, as well as other open-ended items. A copy of the question set is in Appendix E-1. The interviews were conducted at central locations in Erie, Warren, and Crawford counties, or in some cases, at the interviewee’s location. The interview generally lasted 45 minutes to one hour. Interviewees were guaranteed confidentiality in their responses. While the total responses would be tabulated, and individual comments might be included in the results, at no time was a specific individual named in association with any response. This allows the interviewee to be as candid as they would like in response to the questions. To further ensure confidentiality, completed questionnaire forms are held by the consultant. The tabulation of all of the responses is provided in Appendix B. It should also be noted that the interview format and question set will remain in the possession of the client. Irrespective of specific questions about a regional community college, the process can be repeated in the future to gain additional stakeholder insight about regional economic development issues, needs and trends.

2. Selection Process Because one-on-one interviewing is both time- and labor-intensive, it is important that the participants selected for interviews represented the major stakeholders that would either impact, or be impacted by, the issues to be discussed. For the purposes of this study, it was decided to include representation from industry leaders of the region (including several industry sectors), public officials (including local and regional elected officials), and community leaders (including community service organizations, educational leaders, and other community leaders). Also, since our goal was to examine issues from a regional perspective, we needed to have representation from Erie, Warren, and Crawford counties. Over the course of three site visits, the consultant worked with a committee representing the client as outlined in Section A above. This committee sifted through hundreds of names of individuals who would be representative of the categories to be included. The task before the committee was to finalize a list of individuals that would be broadly representative of the region in the targeted categories, would likely represent a broad range of opinions, and would agree to be interviewed. In the end, the committee finalized a list of over 100 names. Generally, the interviewing process is done within one week. Given the scope of this project and the resources available, CG recommended that between 60 and 80 individuals be interviewed. The process of selecting potential interviewees took place over three months, beginning in September 2008, and due to much interest in the project, client representatives were able to schedule interviews with 98 individuals. It should be mentioned that the goal of the committee, and this study process, was to be as inclusive as possible. Therefore, a large number of individuals who were not included in the


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interview list were invited to the research forums as discussed in Section IV of this report. Additionally, anyone else who wanted to participate was invited to provide input in the online survey component, as discussed in Section V of this report. The Clements Group brought together a team of four interviewers, all of whom had extensive feasibility interview experience. During the week, 96 interviews were conducted and two were conducted later by telephone. One telephone interview occurred much later, and it is not included in the tabulation of the results. It should also be noted that there was a high level of interest in this study and in participating in the process. Generally the consultants find that 10% to 15% of scheduled interviews are cancelled for one reason or another. In this instance, only two interviews were cancelled that were not eventually rescheduled. The final interviews included the following numbers from each category: Public Officials: Industry Leaders: Community Leaders: Total:

22 47 29 97

3. Overview of Interview Results The following is an overview of the results of the interviews, provided with minimal interpretation. Later, we will spend more time analyzing these results, and Section VII of the report will blend these results with the other data from the forums and online survey, as well as the secondary data, to look for data trends. Some of the data provided below were responses to open-ended questions. In interpreting the results, like answers are grouped into similar categories that represent a common theme. Where answers were unique, or could not be grouped, they were considered stand-alone answers and were excluded from grouping, as were those with no response. The percentage of respondents whose answers were within those categories is also provided. Because of rounding, some percentage totals may not equal 100 percent. It should also be noted that the order of presentation below is not the same order the items were presented by the interviewer. Item order on the questionnaire is sometimes a function of keeping the flow of the interview running smoothly; in some cases, it is necessary to reorder the items when presenting the data in order to present more coherent groupings. a. Section A – Community and Regional Economic Trends 

The top economic trends facing this region: o Transition from manufacturing to tourism, travel, and service industries (83%) o Current economic conditions (36%) o Aging workforce as baby-boomer generation begins to retire (26%) o Transition to a global economy (15%) o Loss of qualified workforce (10%)


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Comments: There seemed to be a general recognition that, although manufacturing is still a vital component of the regional economy and the amount of goods produced remains substantial, other industries will play a larger role in the economy in the years to come, especially as the region seeks to establish a presence in the global marketplace. Also, in order to succeed, the region needs to understand and manage workforce issues as represented here by the reality of baby-boomer retirement.

The top economic opportunities over the next three to five years: o Growth in the region’s convention and tourism industries (31%) o Excellent water resources (included in these responses were comments about the abundance and quality of the water that can be utilized in a number of commercial applications) (22%) o Growth of the medical industry (11%) o Reputation as a small town with great potential (11%) o Proximity of location to other larger metropolitan areas (9%) o Opportunities for entrepreneurship (9%) o Availability of postsecondary education (9%) Comments: There seemed to be a sense of optimism with potential growth opportunities in the tourism industry as this theme is carried over from the question discussed previously. There was also recognition about the growth of the medical industry, which is consistent with Department of Labor and Industry projections. Many respondents discussed water quality and abundance as providing opportunities for future growth and development in a variety of industries such as agriculture (especially vineyards), electronics manufacturing, tourism, and others. The presence of higher-educational opportunities was also noted by many.

The top industry sectors most important to the region’s current economy: o Manufacturing, plastics, tool and die (65%) o Healthcare (50%) o Tourism and service industry (49%) o Education (32%) o Retail (15%) Comments: Tourism was again carried forward as a major piece of the economic picture. Manufacturing, although seen as in transition, remains an important component. Healthcare and education were also viewed as important components across several questions.

Top concerns about regional growth and development: o Regional politics (24%) o Loss of manufacturing and the associated “draw” to this region (21%) o Loss of talent (the “brain drain”) (20%) o Aging infrastructure (18%) o Lack of skilled workers (15%) o Need for enhanced training (K-12 and up) (15%)


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o Union issues (8%) Comments: The concern about loss of talent was reflective of previous reports (see: Erie Guide to the Economy particularly the data concerning out-migration of people in their 30’s). Although there was awareness of the changing nature of the manufacturing sector, there was concern about the resulting loss of associated industry and workforce attracted to the region because of the sector. Also, influence from other entities (i.e., politics, unions) was seen as a concern for growth and development. We also saw concern about the skill level and training opportunities for future workers. 

Top economic and workforce development challenges: o Locating low-cost training resources that train students to meet the current needs of industry (19%) o Obtaining employees who are technically qualified (17%) o Contending with business operations costs (10%) o Finding employees who have strong “soft skills” (i.e., work ethic, communication skills, problem solving, etc.) (9%) o Contending with government regulations (6%) Comments: It is interesting to note that three of the top five concerns were related to education. Of particular concern was finding technically qualified employees; this theme is repeated in other components of the study as well. Low-cost training opportunities and finding employees who have basic “soft skills” were discussed by a number of the respondents. Although several discussed various aspects of this (i.e., communications, basic skills, work ethic, etc.) we grouped those similar responses under the “soft skills” label. Operations costs and government regulation also made the top five.

Top issues facing this region’s educational system over the next five years: o Maintaining affordability at all educational levels (31%) o Establishing the importance of education within the community and individual families (30%) o Strengthening students’ preparedness for the workforce (26%) o Increasing government regulation of K-12 (21%) o Contending with students graduating without strong reading, communication, and math skills (21%) o Competing with the global marketplace (5%) Comments: The responses tended to reflect awareness of the challenge of both encouraging high-school completion and the need for postsecondary education. A common opinion was that the state needs to make both the community and families aware of how important education is. Another variation of the “soft skills” issue finds its way into two of the top answers (strong basic skills, and student preparedness). Affordability was another top issue that is seen as a challenge. Too


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much government regulation at the K-12 level (i.e., No Child Left Behind) was another top concern. Finally, there was concern about keeping educational opportunities local. Some respondents were concerned about the global marketplace and colleges drawing students away from the area and minimizing their chance of returning. 

Sufficient pool of entry-level workers currently: Category

Yes

Maybe

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

9 22 7 38 39%

4 5 3 12 12%

8 19 17 44 45%

1 1 1 3 3%

22 47 28 97

Comments: For these items, the breakdown between the categories of respondents is presented. However the categories will be discussed only if there seems to be significant differences between the categories. In this case, slightly over half of the respondents felt there are, or might be, a sufficient number of entry-level workers for the current job climate, while a little under half do not. It should be noted that these interviews were taking place at a time when the Erie regional economy was in recession, and the unemployment rate was increasing. There were not substantial differences in the answer patterns between categories. 

Sufficient pool of entry-level workers in five years: Category

Yes

Maybe

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

8 17 8 33 34%

3 13 5 21 22%

7 15 12 34 35%

4 2 3 9 9%

22 47 28 97

Comments: There seemed to be a little more optimism as we projected further into the future, with 56 percent of the respondents believing there will or might be enough entry-level workers in five years. However, a substantial number (35 percent) think there will not be. Again, there were not substantial differences between categories.


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Sufficient pool of technical workers currently: Category

Yes

Maybe

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

6 4 3 13 13%

3 7 3 13 13%

12 35 21 68 70%

1 1 1 3 3%

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Comments: Opinions shifted substantially when the type of workers was more narrowly defined. Here respondents were asked specifically about “technical” workers, defined as those trained in specific skills to work with, operate, maintain, or fabricate technology-based tools, equipment, or processes. Well over two-thirds of the respondents believed there is currently a shortage of workers with these skill sets. Nearly three-fourths of the industry leaders group believe there is a current shortage. 

Sufficient pool of technical workers in five years: Category

Yes

Maybe

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

7 4 6 17 18%

4 14 2 20 21%

7 26 16 49 51%

4 3 4 11 11%

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Comments: Looking out five years, respondents across all categories were more optimistic. Still, over half of all the respondents thought there will not be enough technical workers. It should be noted that industry leaders and community leaders are a little less optimistic, with 55 percent of industry leaders and 57 percent of community leaders thinking there will not be enough technical workers, while only 31 percent of public officials believe this. Over ten percent of the respondents did not want to provide an opinion. 

Sufficient pool of supervisory workers currently: Category

Yes

Maybe

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

11 12 8 31 32%

6 14 4 24 25%

3 20 12 35 36%

2 1 4 7 7%

22 47 28 97


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Comments: Over half of the respondents believe there is currently a sufficient pool of supervisory workers. However, over one-third believed there are not. Again, there were differences between public officials and industry leaders, with 77 percent of public officials believing there is or might be a sufficient pool compared to 55 percent of industry leaders, and 43 percent of community leaders who believe the same way. 

Sufficient pool of supervisory workers in five years: Category

Yes

Maybe

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

9 9 5 23 24%

7 11 6 24 25%

2 23 12 37 38%

4 4 5 13 13%

22 47 28 97

Comments: Overall, there was some optimism about the sufficiency of the supervisory pool as we looked out five years. However, this optimism was buoyed by the response pattern of the public officials, where 72 percent believe there will or might be a sufficient pool in five years as compared to the industry leaders, where less than half (42 percent) believe this will be the case. 

Industry sectors where it will be more difficult to find workers: Comments: Over 90 percent of all respondents believe there are industry sectors where it will be more difficult to find future workers. When asked to specify occupational areas, the following were the most often mentioned: o Manufacturing (17%) o Machinists (13%) o Medical professionals (12%) o Tool and die (10%) o Welders (10%)

Satisfaction with overall regional economic development efforts: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Satisfied

Somewhat Satisfied

Somewhat Unsatisfied

Unsatisfied

No Opin.

5 6 3 14 14%

7 22 6 35 36%

1 10 13 24 25%

9 8 4 21 22%

0 1 2 3 3%

Total 22 47 28 97


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Comments: Generally, respondents felt a little less satisfied with economic development efforts made in the region thus far. This was especially true among those who are part of the economic development effort. The comments tended to support the opinion that while many efforts are being made, many feel the efforts have not yet seen sufficient success. Respondents also identified a strong need for community, industry, and local political leaders to work more closely together to address and resolve the region’s economic development challenges. b. Section B – Opinions about a potential community college 

Importance of a regional community college: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

16 30 19 65 67%

0 6 2 8 8%

3 9 5 17 18%

2 2 1 5 5%

1 0 1 2 2%

Comments: About 75 percent of respondents in each category indicated that a community college was either very or somewhat important for the region, with over two-thirds of respondents indicating that it would be very important. Of the rest, only five percent indicated that it would not be important, and 18 percent were unsure at this time. This was a very strong, positive response for this question, with its strength underscored by the agreement between all three categories of respondents. 

If important, what are your top reasons: Comments: The following were given most often as the top reasons for believing a regional community college was important: o Affordable means to fill the educational gap between high school and college (21%) o Serve as an industry recruiting tool (10%) o Keep local students close to home (8%) o Contribute to the area’s economic development (8%) Each of the top reasons given echoed either comments that were made in the interview questions related to economic development, or some of the previous research findings (i.e., out-migration of students).

If not important, what are your top reasons: Comments: The following were given most often as the top reasons for thinking a community college was not important:

Total 22 47 28 97


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o There is a lack of evidence that a community college is needed (7%) o The region has sufficient postsecondary educational institutions (5%) o Proposed lower tuition would be offset by a tax increase (5%) 

How would a community college benefit you or your organization: Comments: Respondents were given the opportunity to talk about personal or organizational benefits of a community college. This was not a forced question, in that if the respondent found no benefit, they were not required to give an answer to the question. The following were given as the most common answer categories: o Offers industry additional training resources (49%) o Provide many students with postsecondary opportunities they may not otherwise have (30%) o Contributes to an educated citizenry (9%) The answers to this question aligned closely with the observations earlier in the questionnaire about the need for additional industry training or worker retraining options. A community college was viewed as providing these options in ways that the current educational infrastructure does not. There was also recognition that many people, for many reasons, might feel more comfortable enrolling in a community college than in another postsecondary environment.

Who in the region would benefit most from a community college: Comments: This was one of the few times during the interview process where respondents were given a forced choice. Four options were provided and the respondents were asked to choose one or more responses. The following are those responses: o High-school-aged young adults (67 times) o Business and industry (65 times) o Unemployed or underemployed adults (63 times) o Community service organizations (33 times) The purpose of this question was to provide verification for previous open-ended questions. The fourth option was provided as a placeholder, assuming it would be the least chosen. The researchers were interested in any major differences between the first three choices. In fact, the number of times each was mentioned was almost equal. In other words, the respondents believe each group would benefit about equally from a community college. This is interesting because these choices generally reflected community college and technical college missions.


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What are the greatest challenges a community college would face: Comments: This question begins to transition the interview away from more idealized questions toward specifics. The purpose of this question was not only to generate specific answers to the question, but also allow the respondent to begin to consider any difficult or negative implications about a community college. Following are the most frequent response categories: o Funding (39%) o Building awareness of the need and value of education (31%) o Competition from regional colleges (21%) o Determining and then consistently meeting constituent needs (14%) o Resistance to tax increase (10%) o Site selection (6%) Several of these responses related to earlier response patterns, especially building awareness of the need and value of education. Funding and the potential for tax increases were mentioned several times in different ways in the research. It was a recurring theme, as was the potential for competition with existing colleges and proprietary schools.

Important academic programs: Comments: The interviewer next asked about academic programs. This was an open-ended question with no prompts. Its purpose was to ascertain the respondents’ opinions about programs from their personal perspectives. The most common response categories follow: o Core curriculum (math, reading, writing) (29%) o Healthcare (14%) o Engineering (12%) o Technical skills (12%) o Management/leadership training (9%) o Trade skills (welding, plumbing, electricians) (9%) Although few of the responses designated specific “majors” or degree programs, they did indicate the concerns of some of the respondents. The frequency of the response concerning math, reading, and writing skills tended to both support the concept of transfer programs as well as the “soft skills” alluded to in earlier questions. It was assumed that the specific mention of engineering refers to engineering technology at the two-year level, although that is not concluded with certainty. Responses relating to technical skills and trade skills echoed earlier responses. These were seen as important needs especially among industry leaders. Healthcare was another area which was frequently mentioned by respondents throughout the interview. The response about management and leadership training referred both to the questions about the future employee pool for supervisors as well as specific current training needs.


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Section III- Page 12

The importance of transfer programs: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

12 24 16 52 54%

8 19 10 37 38%

2 0 0 2 2%

0 4 1 5 5%

0 0 1 1 1%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: This was one of the more interesting response patterns. Although several respondents talked about the priority of technical training, when asked specifically about the importance of providing transfer programs (i.e., AA and AS degree programs), 92 percent indicated that transfer programs were either very or somewhat important. Strong support was demonstrated from all three interview categories. It would seem that if a community college was developed in the region, there is strong support that it could offer both transfer as well as technical programs. 

The importance of programs leading to direct employment: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

1 41 27 89 92%

1 6 0 7 7%

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

0 0 0 0 0%

0 0 0 0 0%

0 0 1 1 1%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: Programs leading to direct employment primarily include technology programs, many health programs, and programs most often referred to as “trade skills.” These programs are awarded either the AAS (associate of applied science) or a certificate or diploma. There was a high level of agreement as to the importance of these programs in a community college.


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Section III- Page 13

The importance of lifelong learning programs: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

12 19 13 44 45%

8 21 11 40 41%

2 5 3 10 10%

0 2 0 2 2%

0 0 1 1 1%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: The response pattern for this item was somewhat surprising. While respondents talked frequently about the importance of programs leading to direct employment, and less frequently about transfer programs, the concept of lifelong learning was not discussed specifically before this item. The strong positive response can most likely be attributed to earlier items in recognition of the need for industry training and worker retraining programs. 

The importance of personal growth programs: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important 5 9 6 20 21%        

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

13 23 14 50 52%

3 8 1 12 12%

1 6 4 11 11%

0 1 3 4 4%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: The researchers anticipated a fairly low level of support for this item, since the higher priorities of employment training were favored by respondents. However, over 70 percent of the respondents indicated this was either a very or somewhat important role for a community college. In fact, all four traditional community college roles – transfer programs, AAS programs, lifelong learning programs, and personal growth programs – received substantial support among the respondents. This tends to indicate that if a future community college is developed, that it should have a strong vision, and that it should evolve along traditional lines in terms of services and programs offered.


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Section III- Page 14

c. Section C – Types of education/training delivery and other support items 

The importance of business and industry internships: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

20 39 26 85 88%

0 7 0 7 7%

1 0 1 2 2%

0 1 0 1 1%

1 0 1 2 2%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: The importance of internships as both an important method of instruction, as well as for learning specific information about area business and industry, was discussed by many respondents throughout the interview process. In this item, the importance of this methodology is reinforced, with 95 percent rating it as either very or somewhat important, and with well over 90 percent of both public officials and community leaders rating it as very important. 

The importance of business and industry site-based training: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

19 34 21 74 76%

2 9 4 15 15%

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

0 3 2 5 5%

0 1 0 1 1%

1 0 1 2 2%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: Site-based training is similar in some respects to internships, but instead of a student working in a specific role within a business during an internship, the student learns on specific equipment or technology within a business or industry as part of a class. This is used both as a method for student access to high-cost technology that is not available at the college as well as for learning specific processes used by different business and industry types. The positive response among all respondents underscored the importance of this type of activity.


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Section III- Page 15

The importance of continuing education for employees: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

14 27 14 55 57%

6 13 10 29 30%

0 4 2 6 6%

1 3 1 5 5%

1 0 1 2 2%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: The high importance rating for this item, among all three respondent categories, can probably be traced back to earlier components of the questionnaire where the overall importance of employee training was discussed, as well as the view concerning the skill level of different segments of the present and future employee pools. 

The importance of degree options for employees: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

13 24 15 52 54%

7 17 10 34 35%

1 3 1 5 5%

0 3 0 3 3%

1 0 2 3 3%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: This was another important item among all three respondent categories. It provided some insights into potential partnership building, and other avenues of support for a community college among business and industry. 

The importance of career awareness programs with business/industry support: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

16 39 21 76 78%

5 6 5 16 16%

0 1 0 1 1%

0 1 1 2 2%

1 0 1 2 2%

Total 22 47 28 97


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Section III- Page 16

Comments: This question went beyond the importance of career awareness programs for high-school students. Respondents were specifically asked whether it would be important for a community college to work in partnership with business and industry to develop and deliver such programs. This is another potential method of building private-sector partnerships and support. 

The importance of recruiting and training adult workers for specific businesses and industries: Category Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Unsure

Not Important

No Opin.

15 33 24 72 74%

4 10 3 17 18%

1 2 0 3 3%

1 2 0 3 3%

1 0 1 2 2%

Total 22 47 28 97

Comments: This was another question designed to elicit partnership opportunities if, in fact, the respondents believed it to be important. The question that was asked related to whether the community college and business and industry, working together, should develop recruiting and training programs for adult workers who may be under skilled or underemployed in the regional market. 

Additional partnership strategies/methods: Comments: The respondents were asked to suggest additional ways the business and industry community could partner with a potential community college. The most frequent response categories are presented below: o Establish advisory boards (19%) o Offer customized job training (12%) o Establish internships (12%) o Assist with curriculum development (12%) Interestingly, all of the four most common responses are common partnership activities between a community college and the private sector. The importance of internships was reinforced by its frequency of mention.


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Willingness to serve on an advisory board: Category

Yes

Unsure

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

16 39 24 79 81%

1 6 2 9 9%

3 2 1 6 6%

2 0 1 3 3%

22 47 28 97

Comments: In these types of studies, it is one thing to provide opinions about various topics; it is another to agree to take some positive action which would underscore your response. This was the first of several items which asked whether the respondent would be willing to take personal action. Respondents were asked whether they would be willing to serve on an advisory board for a community college if, in fact, one was created. Over 80 percent said yes immediately, nine percent were unsure whether they would, and only six percent said they would not. The response range was fairly similar across the three respondent categories. 

Willingness to recommend others: Category

Yes

Unsure

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

19 45 26 90 93%

0 1 1 2 2%

1 1 0 2 2%

2 0 1 3 3%

22 47 28 97

Comments: This was the second “action” item. Often it is seen as an imposition to recommend or ask others to serve in some capacity. However, 93 percent of all respondents would be willing to ask someone else to serve on an advisory board if a community college was developed.


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Section III- Page 18

Willingness to contribute: Category

Yes

Unsure

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

12 29 13 54 56%

1 14 3 18 19%

5 3 6 14 14%

4 1 6 11 11%

22 47 28 97

Comments: This was the third and final “action” item. The intent of this question went beyond volunteering time, and specifically requested monetary or similar contributions on behalf of the individuals or their organizations to support a community college. This item will help gauge the seriousness of support for the concept. In this instance, well over 50 percent of the respondents indicated they would be willing to make a contribution in support of a community college; another 19 percent were unsure. Only 14 percent said “no” to this item. d. Section D – General concluding questions 

Would there be enough students to support a community college: Category

Yes

Unsure

No

No Opin.

Total

Public Officials Industry Leaders Community Leaders Totals Percentages

18 25 22 65 67%

3 17 4 24 25%

0 3 1 4 4%

1 2 1 4 4%

22 47 28 97

Comments: While the respondents did not have first-hand data to make a judgment about potential enrollment size, the intent of the question was to solicit simply their opinion based upon knowledge of the area. In this case, slightly over two-thirds of the respondents believed there would be enough students to support a community college. It should be noted that only four percent believed there would not be enough students. 

How could the region help support a community college: Comments: This item prompted the respondent to begin thinking of new ways, hopefully beyond the traditional, for the region to support a community college either financially or with other forms of support. The most common response categories are provided below:


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

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o Increased tax revenues (21%) o Partner with existing institutions (18%) o Spearhead partnerships between stakeholders (i.e., government, community, industry, and college) (14 %) o Enhance regional awareness and support (13%) o Educate high-school parents and the community about the need and benefits of postsecondary education (11%) o Foundations and business support (i.e., scholarships) (7%) o Petition the legislature (7%) Two of the most common responses (i.e., increased tax revenues and legislative petition) represented more traditional methods of support. The other common response categories provided ideas about future action. 

Other factors about a community college not previously mentioned: Comments: The respondents were given the opportunity to provide any additional information about a potential community college that had not been included in the previous items. Following are the most common response categories: Demonstrate a compelling need for a regional community college (15%) Contend with resistance (10%) Cultivate strong political support (10%) Demonstrate the return on the community’s investment — show the college would benefit all (10%) o Competition with existing educational institutions (7%) o Locating funding sources (6%)

o o o o

Four of the five most common response categories are somewhat related. Demonstrating the need, contending with resistance, cultivating political support, and demonstrating the return on investment are all components of building the next level of campaign for support if the decision is to move forward. Competition represents a repeated theme and needs to be carefully considered. 

Any other factors: Comments: The final item for the interview was also open-ended and provided the respondent with the chance to comment about any aspect of the interview or the topics discussed. Most of the responses for this item were not easily categorized, but a few were. Those include: o Raise awareness among area students about the opportunities provided by a community college (9%) o Cultivate support from other area educational institutions and community leaders (7%)


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o Demonstrate a niche that attracts industry and enhances economic development (6%) All three of these themes represent issues that have been discussed in different ways throughout the interviews and serve as an important capstone for the process.

4. Summary of Major Findings a. Economic and workforce development Erie, Crawford, and Warren counties, are areas in transition. Respondents were very aware that things are changing, but yet there remained an optimistic attitude about the future. The traditional industries centered on manufacturing continue to be important, especially as the region reaches out to the global marketplace. However, changes in technology and processes will likely mean a reduced workforce in these industries over time. Tourism and the medical industry have the potential for significant growth. Also, new agriculture, high-technology industries, and other industries not yet imagined, made possible by the abundant high-quality water resources, will play an increasingly important role in the future. However, there were significant concerns about the area’s capability of capitalizing on these future opportunities. There was concern about people leaving the area: the socalled “brain drain”. This, along with an aging workforce and perceived lack of needed skill sets among many in the workforce and those still in high school, will provide challenges in meeting workforce needs. Additionally, there was concern about an aging infrastructure and the need to modernize facilities over time. Education was viewed as an important regional asset. However, there was some concern that recognition of the importance of an educated citizenry is not as widespread throughout the area as it should be. There was a viewpoint shared among many respondents that work ethic, workplace skills, and soft skills (i.e., math, communication, writing, etc.) are being overlooked. These perceived problems will also compound workforce challenges in the future, especially in technical and supervisory jobs. Overall, there was recognition that significant economic development efforts are being made. Yet, there was concern that these efforts are not enough; especially in times of economic downturn. There was a pervasive view that this area has significant assets and has tremendous potential for growth if these challenges can be met and overcome. b. Education and a potential community college Respondents tended to see additional educational resources as an important component of the future, especially at the community college level. A regional community college can provide an important avenue of affordable access to postsecondary education according to most respondents.


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While the majority of respondents supported a regional community college, there were some who were concerned about the impact it might have on local/regional taxes and on the other postsecondary institutions, both public and proprietary. Respondents indicated they believe a community college can provide additional critical training resources for business and industry, both for existing as well as future workers. It could provide opportunities for both high-school aged residents as well as adult workers, many of whom are viewed as underemployed or under skilled. If a community college is developed, it should focus on core curriculum as well as technical skills. Most respondents viewed a community college as providing the basic four services, which include transfer programs, technical programs leading to direct employment, lifelong learning, and programs for personal growth. According to the respondents, additional characteristics of this community college should include opportunities for internships, as well as site-based training. It should also provide opportunities for the existing workforce to obtain continuing education, including options for obtaining associate degrees. There should also be partnership opportunities between the community college and the private sector for promoting career awareness at the highschool level, as well as programs to recruit adult workers into training programs for needed occupational areas. The strong support among respondents for a community college resource is underscored by the respondents’ willingness to serve on advisory boards, recommend others to serve, and, in the view of over half of the respondents, provide direct financial or other contributed support for the college. Respondents believe there will be sufficient students to support a community college and recommend several ways the region could help support it. This support would include developing partnerships with communities and foundations, developing legislative support, and developing private-sector support. The potential for an increase in local/regional taxes to support the college was mentioned by many, but there is not enough data to determine how strongly that move would be supported. Finally, there is an appreciation for the existing regional postsecondary resources. It was suggested several times by many respondents that should a community college be developed, partnership opportunities with existing colleges should be explored at the front end of the development. Overall, there is very strong support for a community college in this region, especially one tied to the region’s economic development vision.


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Section IV - Forums A. Overview Forums are designed to elicit responses from participants which, based on the frequency of like responses, result in both identifying consensus and resulting priorities. Forums are organized around a common area of interest or perspective, such as an industry sector or interest group. These forums provide the opportunity to explore each question in depth to better understand the thinking of the respondents. Two conditions suggest caution in extrapolating the forum results too broadly. First, the number of participants in a forum is relatively small. This is intentional in that it provides more interaction among participants and the facilitator, and more opportunity to clarify responses and positions. Second, the pool of potential participants is determined by the scope of the invitation list, and most invitees self-select to participate. This approach better ensures that the participants are people with an active interest in the forum subject, but prevents characterizing the results as being representative of the total population. Therefore, the results of the forums should be considered in the context of how they support information and/or conclusions derived from other data. Detail contained in the reports will also provide the reviewer with a deeper understanding of why participants responded in a certain way.

B. Selection Process The selection process for those to be invited to the forums was similar to the process used in selecting the interview group. It was decided early in the process to conduct eight forums. In consultation with the committee (as outlined in the feasibility study process discussed in Section III), the decision was made to establish three industry sector (employer) groups, one group representing community services, and one group representing the educational community. The three industry sectors were to include those that carried specific economic impact regionally. The three sectors chosen were manufacturing, healthcare, and a third group that would include finance, insurance, real estate, and tourism. The participant selection process started with the same list of stakeholders that was generated initially for the feasibility study interview process. Many of the individuals who were not part of that process were included for invitation to the forums. Where additional names were needed, the committee worked with other representative groups to complete the lists. The selection process for the remaining three forums was different. These forums would represent those groups most likely to use any new educational resource. They included parents, high-school students, and adult learners (recent high-school graduates and working adults who might have an interest in furthering their education). For the parents and adult learners groups, an invitation to participate was presented to each


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superintendent and high-school principal within the Tri-County Intermediate Unit (#5) (IU) region. Names of possible participants were then provided to the IU, and IU personnel contacted the people on the list extending an invitation to participate. The individuals represented the three-county region in which the IU operates. To populate the forum for current high-school students, the Erie County Technical School invited a group of sophomores and juniors from the Erie County Technical School and from the Regional Choice Initiative Project (Concurrent College/Dual Enrollment). To further expand the group, a number of randomly selected ninth graders (freshmen) from another local high school were bused to the forum site to participate. In all, a total of 114 individuals participated in the forums to the extent that their participation could be included in the results analysis. Sixty-seven individuals participated in the three industry sector forums, the group representing community services, and the group representing the educational community. Forty-seven individuals participated in the other three forums representing parents, high-school students, and adult learners.

C. Forum Process and Format The forum format can be best described as individual brainstorming on a series of questions presented by the facilitator, followed by group discussion. After participants have the opportunity to complete their individual consideration of a question and write their responses on a 3x5 card, the facilitator asks a number of the participants to share one or more of their answers with the group. This generates opportunity for the group to discuss in more depth the issue(s) presented, and allowed the facilitator to seek additional clarification of the responses, if needed. When discussion about the question is completed, the facilitator collects the written responses, and presents the next question. The process continues until all the questions have been presented, answered, and discussed. After the forum, all of the responses to each of the questions are entered into a datasheet. At this time, like answers are grouped together generating the “frequency” counts that allow for the identification and prioritization of key issues.


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D. Overview of Forum Results by Forum Eight forums were conducted during the week of January 12, 2009. The forums were designed to represent groups typically interested in the programs and services that a community college might offer. These included: Group Employers Group

Users Group

Industry 

Manufacturing

Healthcare

Services (finance, real estate, insurance tourism)

Community services and government

Education partners

Parents

Adult learners and recent high-school graduates

High-school students (freshmen and juniors)

The questions presented to the forum participants were designed to elicit their responses on a range of topics that included: Group Employers Group

Industry Industry challenges

Employment trends

New employees

Current employees

Internship and co-operative education

Education system

Community college

Partnering


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Users Group

Regional challenges

Education system challenges

Employment trends

Community college

Student focus

Section IV- Page 4

The results for each forum were analyzed individually, with a separate report generated for each one. The complete forum reports are available in Appendix C.

E. Summary of Major Findings from the Forums As noted earlier, the forums included representatives from two groups: an industry group and a users group. The summary of major findings is presented in the same way, since the question sets for the two groups were different in some cases. The questions covered in this summary are the questions that were the same or similar in both groups, and most directly address the broad issue of the region’s economy, the challenges faced by the educational systems, and whether or not the region would benefit from having a community college. For specific differences between the individual forums that made up each group summarized below, please refer to Appendix C. 1. Employers Group 

What are the top three challenges facing your industry over the next three years? A top challenge, identified by a majority of participants across the five employers’ group forums, was the availability of a qualified workforce that meets the needs of business and industry. The question generated from the 65 participants, a total of thirty-six (80 percent), responses reflecting this challenge. The second most often identified challenge by the 65 participants related to dealing with the loss of talent in the region due to turnover in positions, babyboomers beginning to retire in greater numbers, as well as with recent graduates, young professionals, and other experienced and skilled workers leaving the area to pursue opportunity elsewhere. Eighteen (28 percent) respondents from the group cited this issue.


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What are your top three concerns with the region's employment climate? The greatest number of responses (60 percent) to this question related to concerns about whether there will be adequate numbers of people to meet industry and business needs. Concerns expressed by the participants included such issues as: being able to match people with the right jobs and careers; the lack of basic workforce readiness knowledge and skills in many people in the employment pool; the “brain-drain” of local talent from the region, and the difficulty in attracting new talent to the region; whether area graduates possess the skill sets businesses require; and whether businesses will be able to replace the experience and talent lost through anticipated retirements.

What are the top three challenges facing the region's education system (K-12 and postsecondary)? The 13 participants in the manufacturing forum generated 19 responses focusing on the need for the education system to teach students more basic skills, including life skills and math and reading skills, to provide more math, science and engineering (STEM) programs, and to work to align graduates’ skills and knowledge with business and industry needs. Thirty-one percent of the 16 participants in the healthcare forum felt that the educational systems need to teach critical-thinking skills better. Participants in four of the five forums generated 16 responses focusing on the need to make education more affordable, and 16 responses noting that the educational systems need to ensure they are putting qualified, motivated teachers/faculty in the classroom.

How important would it be for the region to have a community college? When asked how important it would be for the region to have a community college, a majority in all five forums responded that it would be either very important or important. In four of the five forums, the greatest number of people stated it would be very important, while in one forum, the greatest number of people responded that it would be important. Overall, 42 percent of the forum participants responded that a community college would be very important for the region; 29 percent responded that it would be important, 11 percent that it would be somewhat important, six percent that it would not be important, and 12 percent were unsure.

What are your top three reasons for your response to the importance of a community college to the region? The issues of a community college being accessible, especially for nontraditional students, for those students who “might be on a different path”, or


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for those otherwise not planning to pursue additional education, were the reasons given most often by participants who indicated they thought a community college would be very important or important for the region. A total of 36 responses concurring with accessibility were generated by the 46 participants in this category. The issue of the affordability of a community college generated the second largest number of responses from this group. Many in this same group identified the college’s programs – expected to be more flexible, responsive, and aligned with the needs of business and industry – as another reason for their response. The 46 participants in the very important/important group generated 21 responses referencing the issue of programs and program alignment. The reason cited most often by the 12 people who thought that a community college was not important, or were unsure it would be important for the region (nine responses), was that there were already an adequate number of postsecondary educational institutions and resources in the region to meet the need. Within this group, two participants added that they thought existing resources could adapt their mission to encompass what a community college would do. 

What should be the most important elements of the mission of a regional community college serving the area? From among the 65 participants, the most important element of the mission of a regional community college was identified as flexibility; focusing on being responsive to the needs of students and the community; and being responsive to, and aligned with, the needs of the region’s business and industry. Fiftyseven responses spoke to this issue. Five of these responses spoke specifically to the issue of providing technical and other programming not available at other colleges. The element of affordability generated the second highest level of responses (29). Serving as an education resource to the entire community, particularly serving the needs of both traditional and non-traditional students, was a mission element that generated the third highest number of responses (20).

What are the three greatest challenges a community college would face? Sixty-eight percent of the participants identified cost, funding, and the impact on taxpayers as the biggest challenge a community college would face. The issue of competition with existing colleges in the region generated 26 responses from the group. The majority of these responses related to competition for enrollment, and a community college’s ability to successfully attract the number of students it needs to be successful.


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Section IV- Page 7

The issue of a community college’s ability to attract quality faculty generated 14 responses, while the challenge of being able to identify programs and design curriculum that truly meets the current and evolving needs of the region generated 12 responses. 2. User Group 

What are the region's top three economic and workforce development challenges? The most common responses (36) from the 45 participants in the user group regarding the region’s top economic and workforce development challenges centered on the issue of the availability of jobs that pay a living wage. Participants cited their concerns with companies in the area increasing layoffs, downsizing, and moving jobs out of the area. Seven of the responses expressed concern with the difficulty in finding jobs that match a person’s interests and training, while six of the responses expressed the concern of first being able to find a job, and then being able to keep the job. Nine respondents expressed concern about the quality of the region’s labor pool, and whether enough people have the skills and knowledge required by employers.

What are top three concerns with the region's employment climate? Again, concern regarding the availability of good jobs paying a living wage, generated the largest number of responses (44) from the user group. The 14 parents generated 10 responses expressing this concern, the 11 adult learners generated 12 responses, and the 22 high-school students generated 22 responses expressing their concerns about job availability in the region. Consistent with the above, members of the user group generated 12 responses expressing concerns regarding the shrinking of the manufacturing industry, businesses leaving the area, closing down, and too many jobs leaving the area.

What are the top three challenges facing the region's postsecondary education system over the next five years? Seventy-nine percent of the participants identified cost and affordability of postsecondary education as a top challenge facing the region’s postsecondary education system over the next five years. The other challenge that participants across the user group identified as a top challenge is job placement of graduates. Within the 12 responses related to this area, participants noted the need to meet placement promises, in addition


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Section IV- Page 8

to ensuring students are pursuing the right degree, properly prepared to be successful, and that the resulting degree has value. 

How important would it be for the region to have a community college? A total of 71 percent of the forum participants responded that they felt a community college would be either very important (43 percent) or important (28 percent) for the region. Seventeen percent thought it would be somewhat important, while two percent thought it would not be important, and 11 percent were unsure if it was important.

What are your top three reasons for your response to the importance of a community college to the region? Among the 33 participants who thought a community college would be very important or important to the region, 70 percent identified affordability as a top reason for their response. This same group generated 30 total responses citing access issues as a top reason for their response. Included in these responses were their belief that a community college would provide a bridge for students unsure of what they want to do, or for those returning to education from the workforce; that it would encourage a return to learning for all ages; that it would serve as a bridge to a four-year degree; that it would be less intimidating for young students; and that it would provide more educational opportunities and options for people in the region.

What should be the most important elements of the mission of a regional community college serving this area? Fifty-two percent of the participants identified affordability as a most important element of a regional community college’s mission. Within these responses, a number of people noted that access for the less affluent is important. Thirty-five percent of the participants stated that alignment of the college’s programs with the needs of the community, and with business and industry, is one of the most important mission components. Twenty-four percent of participants identified program and curriculum as one of the most important elements of a regional community college’s mission. Included in their responses were references to the college providing a variety of courses and career options, general classes and associate degree programs, and technical programs for those who want to pursue blue-collar jobs.


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Section IV- Page 9

Would you consider a community college an attractive, postsecondary option for your child, or for yourself? Of the total participants in the user group, 55 percent responded that they would consider a community college an attractive, postsecondary option. Twenty-six percent responded that they would consider it somewhat of an attractive option, while 19 percent responded that that they would not consider a community college and attractive option for their postsecondary education.

What are the top three reasons for your response to whether a community college is an attractive option for pursing your postsecondary education? Among those who saw a community college as an attractive, postsecondary option, 58 percent identified affordability as a top reason. This same group generated 10 responses citing accessibility as a top reason for their response. They further described this as career exploration for students not yet sure of their career path, a bridge to a four-year degree, and as a chance to pursue postsecondary education. For the 21 participants from the user group who stated that they do not see or only somewhat see a community college as an attractive option, their top reason was they had already decided on another alternative for their postsecondary education. This position generated nine responses. The high-school student forum included a total of 22 participants. Seventeen participants (77 percent of the total group) stated that they saw a community college as an attractive option or somewhat an attractive option. Of this group, 53 percent stated that affordability was a top reason for their response. Of this same group, 47 percent stated that remaining close to home was a top reason for their response. The 12 high-school participants who stated that a community college would somewhat be an attractive option, or not be an attractive option, generated a total of seven responses. There reasons fell into three categories: (a) they already made a decision about their postsecondary education, (b) they wanted to experience a new environment outside of Erie, or (c) they were not sure the location of the community college would be accessible to them.

F. Outline of Major Findings from the Forums 1. Employers group:  Economic concerns: o Having a qualified workforce


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Section IV- Page 10

o Loss of talent for the workforce o Maintaining an adequate number of workers due to:  Career interest

Adequate basic and workplace skills

Talent leaving the area (i.e., the “brain drain”)

Baby-boomer retirement

Attracting new talent into the area

Educational challenges: o The need to improve basic skills o The need to improve critical thinking skills o Improving access to STEM related curriculum o Affordability of postsecondary options

Creating a regional community college: o 71% rate this as important or very important due to:  Affordability 

Accessibility

For non-traditional students

For those who may not otherwise plan on further education

More flexible, responsive, and aligned to needs of community and business

o For those who think it’s not important:  The area already has enough postsecondary options 

The mission of a community college should include: o Maintaining flexibility o Designed to meet the needs of students, community, and business o Focus on programs that are not available elsewhere o Maintaining affordability


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Section IV- Page 11

Community college challenges: o Cost and potential impact on taxpayers o Attracting qualified faculty o Designing curriculum that meets regional needs

2. Users Group:  Economic and employment challenges and climate: o Jobs that pay a living wage o Concerns about current downsizing o Jobs that meet career goals o Maintaining a qualified labor pool with the requisite skills 

Educational challenges: o Affordability of postsecondary education o Job placement after graduation

Creating a community college: o 71% rate this as important or very important due to:  Community college affordability 

Access

Bridge for students unsure of career goals

Bridge for those returning to education (the adult learner)

Easier way for some students to bridge to a four-year degree

o 2% of this group thought a community college was not important 

The mission of a community college should include: o Maintaining affordability o Access for less affluent o Align with needs of community and business o Varied curriculum to include transfer and technical programs


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Section IV- Page 12

Would you choose a community college: o 81% indicated the community college option was either very or somewhat attractive because of:  Affordability 

Alternative bridge to four-year degree

Bridge for those uncertain of their career

o 19% indicated a community college was not an option because:  Career plans already have been made 

Plans on leaving the area for postsecondary education

o 77% of the high-school students in the forum indicated the community college option was either very or somewhat attractive

3. Commonality between the forums: As can be seen in the summary of responses above, there were some areas of commonality between the two groups of forums. Both the employers and users group identified affordability and access as critical components of a future community college mission. Both identified the need for a community college to be tied to student, community, and business needs. Both thought a community college could be a very important option for high-school students unsure of their goals, or wanting a different option for bridging to a four-year school. Also, both groups believed a community college could provide an important option for adult learners who would like to return to the classroom. Over 70 percent of both groups saw a community college option as being either important or very important to the region.


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Section V- Page 1

Section V - Online Survey A. Survey Purpose and Development The two major research methods summarized in previous sections provide the major data elements for the current study. However, this study generated significant interest throughout the region. Over time, there were more stakeholders who wanted to provide input than could be accommodated either through the feasibility study interview process or through the forums. This is not unusual; it has been seen in similar studies. From the outset, an online survey component was planned to accommodate any stakeholder who wished to provide comments. An online survey, however, can be challenging. On the one hand, an online survey open to all interested parties can provide some useful information for comparison with the two major methodologies. On the other hand, there is no way, without significant time and expenditure beyond the resources of this study, to adequately control the sample. An open-ended online survey relies on the good intentions of those who participate. Also, since the sample size is not controlled, nor sufficiently randomized, the results cannot be viewed as having statistical validity. For that reason, it was determined that the survey questions generally parallel questions that were included either in the interviews or forums, providing additional input for comparison purposes only. It was necessary to avoid questions that could be interpreted as a poll, since that could generate confusion among respondents as to whether the survey was, in fact, a referendum. Because of the limitations of the methodology it could not, and did not, serve that purpose. The online survey items were first generated by the consulting team based on the categories of items included in the interviews and forums. These questions were revised to fit an online survey format and were then reviewed by the client committee. It was also decided that, although there would be a common set of core questions, additional information would be helpful from two demographic groups: parents, high-school students, and adult learners; and business and industry representatives (called “business person� for the purposes of the summary provided below). Demographic information was included at the beginning of the survey. If the respondent indicated membership in one of the above groups, they were directed to additional survey items (see Appendix E3). Information about the availability of the online survey was posted on the REthink Erie Web site, publicized in local newspapers, and sent electronically to potential participants. The survey was open for ten days, from January 28 to February 6, 2009. This section summarizes the responses to the online survey. It includes both an overview of the core question results asked of all respondents, as well as the summary of the two additional question sets asked of the two groups described above. For complete results of the online survey, please see Appendix D.


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Section V- Page 2

B. Limitations and Use of Data As noted above, the online survey should not be construed as a statistically valid sampling of the regional population. The data is valid only for those who chose to complete the survey. However, where data obtained by the survey is illustrative of information obtained by the other two research methods, that data will be discussed in conjunction with the blended summary of all research findings presented in the next section of this report (Section VII). It should be noted that some online respondents and non-participants were concerned the survey did not ask whether they supported the concept of a community college. As explained above, the use of this survey as a poll would have been statistically problematic, so the instrument attempted to avoid any appearance of a referendum. Another limitation of the study was that there was no way to determine if there were duplicate responses. Based upon response patterns, this does not seem to be the case, but caution is advised.

C. Overall Demographics A total of 2,084 residents responded to the online survey. Of these, 1,681 (81 percent) identified themselves as Erie County residents, 240 (12 percent) identified themselves as Crawford County residents, and 163 (8 percent) identified themselves as Warren County residents. Although not exactly reflective of the ratio of the population of each county to the total population of the three counties together, the response rates provide the basis for making comparisons and drawing reasonable conclusions within the limitations described above. Respondents were asked to self-identify into one of eight groups: Parent

Current Highschool Student

Recent Highschool Graduate

Adult Learner (≼25 yrs)

Business Person

Educator

Public Official /Community Leader

Interested Resident

10%

8%

<1%

7%

24%

21%

5%

25%

The largest numbers of respondents were from the interested resident (25 percent), business person (24 percent), and educator (21 percent) categories. Based on their selection, some were asked to describe themselves further. Following are the additional sub-categories. This level of stratification was built into the survey instrument so that additional analysis among responders/responses is possible, if needed.


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Primary Respondent Category Parent

Section V- Page 3

Respondent Sub-Categories K-8 High-school freshman High-school sophomore High-school junior High-school senior

Current High-school Student

Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior

Recent High-school Graduate

2007 2008

Business Person

Educator

Management Non-management K-12 administrator K-12 faculty Postsecondary administrator Postsecondary faculty

D. Summary of Findings Common Questions Asked Across All Groups Note that a review of the data suggests that respondents who were opposed to establishing a community college in the region, or did not believe a community college would benefit the region, used the “none” response in each category to indicate their opposition. It appears that approximately 10-12 percent of respondents chose this option. As a percentage, Erie County residents responded in this manner at approximately three times the rate of Crawford County residents, and five times the rate of Warren County residents. There were no material differences in the sequences of the ranking of the responses to the following questions across the categories of respondents.


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Section V- Page 4

Do you believe there are enough students in the area to support a regional community college? Yes

No

Unsure

Total

Responses

1161

479

444

2084

Percentages

56%

23%

21%

Comments: A majority (56 percent) of the respondents indicated there are enough students in the area to support a regional community college. Twenty-three percent of the respondents did not believe there are enough students in the area to support a regional community college. An almost equal number of respondents, 21 percent, were unsure. 

How would each of the following groups benefit from a regional community college? Comments: Survey respondents indicated that they thought recent high-school graduates would benefit most from a community college, adult learners would benefit second most, and high-school students would benefit third most. They responded that retirees would benefit the least. This ranking held whether comparing just the responses in the “high benefit” category, or when adding the “high benefit” and “medium benefit” categories together. It is important to note that the difference between the top three categories was only a few percentage points. Recent high-school graduates Adult learners High-school students

High Benefit 49% 46% 41%

High + Medium Benefit 75% 74% 70%

Overall, Warren County respondents gave the highest scores in these two categories across the three beneficiary groups, Crawford County gave the second highest totals, and Erie County respondents gave the third highest totals.

Recent High-School Graduates

County Crawford Erie Warren Totals

High 131 55% 770 46% 114 70%

Medium 28% 68 26% 430 25% 40

1015

538

49%

26%


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Adult Learners

High-School Students

Section V- Page 5

County Crawford Erie Warren

High 142 59% 716 43% 109 67%

Medium 23% 56 28% 478 25% 41

Totals

967

575

County Crawford Erie Warren

High 111 46% 653 39% 92 56%

Medium 31% 74 28% 477 33% 53

Totals

856

604

46%

41%

28%

29%

What level of emphasis do you believe a regional community college should place on the following types of degree certificate and diploma areas? Comments: Survey respondents indicated that among the choices provided, the career associate degree should receive the most emphasis, transfer associate degree should receive the second most emphasis, the certificate program should receive the third most emphasis, and short-term career diploma should receive the least emphasis within the group. This ranking held whether comparing only the responses in the “high emphasis” category, or when adding the “high emphasis” and “medium emphasis” categories together. When looking at the “high response” category only, the career associate degree scored significantly higher than the next highest category, transfer associate degree. However, when combining the “high emphasis” and the “medium emphasis” responses, the gap closes substantially. Degree Career Associate Degree Transfer Associate Degree Certificate Program Short-term Career Diploma

High Emphasis 59% 47% 46% 37%

High + Medium Emphasis 79% 74% 73% 64%

Overall, Warren County respondents gave the highest scores in these two categories across the four degree and diploma groups, Crawford County gave the second highest totals with the exception of the short-term career diploma, and Erie County respondents gave the third highest totals, again with the exception of the short-term career diploma.


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Career Associate Degree (Two years)  For a student who wants to enter the workforce upon completion, and does not want to transfer to a four-year institution

County

(Two years)  To facilitate transfer to a four-year institution upon completion

Certificate Program (Six to eight months)  To assist with a specifically-defined occupational goal

Short-term Career Diploma (Quick employment opportunities with six- to eightweek programs)  Offer concentrated study of technical job skills  Usually chosen by students who need a specific technical skill as quickly as possible

Medium

Crawford

165

69%

46

19%

Erie

947

56%

329

20%

Warren

118

72%

39

24%

1,230

59%

414

20%

Total

Transfer Associate Degree

High

Section V- Page 6

County

High

Medium

Crawford

132

55%

70

29%

Erie

731

43%

436

26%

Warren

100

61%

51

31%

Totals

963

46%

557

27%

County

High

Medium

Crawford

122

51%

80

33%

Erie

758

45%

441

26%

Warren

107

66%

51

31%

Totals

987

47%

572

27%

County

High

Medium

Crawford

100

42%

77

32%

Erie

589

35%

427

25%

Warren

87

53%

49

30%

Totals

776

37%

553

27%

What level of emphasis do you believe a regional community college should place on the following program areas? Survey respondents ranked the ten program area options in the following order of importance, highest to lowest. The rankings remain the same whether comparing the “high emphasis” responses only, or comparing the “high” and “medium emphasis” responses combined.


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Section V- Page 7

Program Area Occupational/Technical Education  Prepares for jobs in manual or practical activities related to a specific trade or occupation

High

High + Medium

61%

81%

Job Placement

55%

76%

Career Advisement

47%

74%

Cooperative Education  Integrates classroom studies with learning through work experiences in a field related to academic or career goals  Co-op is a partnership among students, educational institutions, and employers with specified responsibilities for each party

45%

74%

Developmental Education  Supports the academic and personal growth of underprepared students through instruction, counseling, advising, and tutoring  Traditional and non-traditional students who need to develop their skills to be successful in college

42%

73%

Continuing Education and Professional Development  Courses taught at the postsecondary level (credit or non-credit courses)

41%

72%

Internships  A type of work experience for new job-seekers  Internships involve working in your field, either during a semester, or over the summer

39%

70%

Community Service Opportunities  Allows students to volunteer in community service organizations

28%

57%

Liberal Arts Education  Aimed at imparting general knowledge and developing intellectual capacities  The liberal arts include literature, art, languages, philosophy, politics, history, mathematics, and science

23%

52%

Avocational and Recreational Courses

14%

41%


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Section V- Page 8

What level of emphasis do you believe a regional community college should place on the following teaching methods? Survey respondents ranked the six teaching methods, indicating traditional classroom instruction and blended solutions should be emphasized the most. Workplace (on-the-job) training should receive the next most emphasis. Respondents then ranked Web-based E-learning and computer-aided instruction comparably, and felt that they should be the next most emphasized. Distance learning was ranked as deserving the least amount of emphasis of the six teaching methods presented.

Teaching Method Blended Solution  A combination of two or more of the described delivery methods

High 48%

High + Medium 74%

Traditional Classroom Instruction

47%

75%

Workplace (on-the-job) Training

45%

73%

Web-based E-learning  Anywhere, any-time instruction over the internet to students with instructors or to self-learners using a combination of methods including streaming audio/video, live web broadcasts, chats, and desktop video conferencing

36%

69%

Computer-aided design  Self-paced learning or tutoring on a computer

35%

71%

Distance learning  Using technology and instructional systems to deliver education to students who are not physically "on site"  Teachers and students exchange printed or electronic media allowing them to communicate in real time

30%

65%

What level of emphasis do you believe a regional community college should place on the following services, training, and testing? Survey respondents ranked the five services, training, and testing areas as follows. They indicated that certification and licensure exams should be have the most emphasis, with specialized testing as the next most emphasized. Respondents ranked workforce assessment and personal finance about equally, and felt they should be given the next most emphasis. Corporate training was ranked last by the survey respondents.


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Section V- Page 9

Services, Training, and Testing Certification and Licensure Exams  Include A+ computer technician certification, Microsoft certification, professional licensure

High 50%

High + Medium 77%

Specialized Testing  Includes nursing entrance exam, ACT work keys assessments, CLEP (college-level examination program) for college credit, GED

46%

74%

Workforce Assessment  The process of evaluating the skill levels of existing employees

36%

69%

Personal Finance  Personal budgeting, managing debt (mortgage, credit card), savings, and investment

34%

69%

Corporate Training

22%

61%

Questions Asked Only to Parents, High-School Students, and Adult Learners 

If there was a community college in the region, would you consider it an option for you or your child’s postsecondary education? Comments: Across the three groups, parents, current high-school students, and adult learners, two-thirds (67 percent) of the respondents stated that they would consider a community college as an option. Sixty percent of the parent respondents would consider it an option for their children, seventy-five percent of the adult-learner respondents stated they would consider it an option for themselves, as did sixty-seven percent of the current high-school student respondents.

Parents

County

Yes

No

No Opinion

Total

Crawford

16

3

0

19

Erie

89

75

3

167

Warren

18

2

0

20

Totals

123

80

3

206

% of Total

60%

39%

1%

100%


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

Adult Learners

High-School Students

Section V- Page 10

Yes

No

No Opinion

Total

11

2

0

13

87

37

0

124

17

0

0

17

115

39

0

154

75%

25%

0%

100%

County

Yes

No

No Opinion

Total

Crawford

18

3

0

21

Erie

94

50

0

144

Warren

0

1

0

1

Totals

112

54

0

166

% of Total

67%

33%

0%

100%

County Crawford Erie Warren Totals % of Total

Yes

No

No Opinion

Total

45

8

0

53

270

162

3

435

35

3

0

38

350

173

3

526

67%

33%

1%

100%

County Crawford Erie Warren Totals % of Total

Totals

Questions Asked Only of High-School Students 

Upon graduation, are you planning to stay in or return to the region? A total of 91 (55 percent) of the 166 respondents indicated that they are planning to stay in or return to the region upon graduation.

County Crawford Erie Warren Totals

Yes 15 76 0 91

No 6 68 1 75

Total 21 144 1 166


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Section V- Page 11

Have you established career goals for yourself? A total of 127 (77 percent) of the 166 respondents stated that they have established personal career goals. County Crawford Erie Warren Totals

Yes 18 109 0 127

No 3 35 1 39

Total 21 144 1 166

After graduation, are you entering a STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) job or field of study? Only 49 (30 percent) of the 166 respondents stated that they plan to enter a STEM-related job or field of study, after graduation.

County Crawford Erie Warren Totals

Yes 7 42 0 49

No 14 102 1 39

Total 21 144 1 166

Business Person Section – Workforce Questions The online survey contained a set of questions asked only of respondents who identified themselves as a “business person” in the first section of the survey. Of the 2,084 total respondents, 482 respondents (24 percent) identified themselves as a “business person.” Of this group, approximately 20 percent self-identified as being non-management, and approximately 80 percent self-identified as being part of management. All 482 respondents identified whether they were management or non-management, and identified the industry in which they were employed. After answering the first two questions, 315 participants continued the survey and responded to the remaining questions in this section. 

What industry sector do you represent? The industry sectors most often identified by the respondents were the following.    

Construction Healthcare Legal Manufacturing


THE CLEMENTS GROUP – County of Erie, ERCGP, & NWIRC Feasibility Report

   

Section V- Page 12

Non-profit Retail Technology

How many employees do you have in each of the following categories: permanent full-time, permanent part-time, temporary? Respondents reported a total of 48,940 employees. Of this total, 41,225 (84 percent) were identified as permanent full-time, 6076 (12 percent) as permanent part-time, and 1639 (4 percent) as temporary employees.

County Crawford Erie Warren

Permanent Full-time Average Number of Employees per Respondent 89.40 144.05 103.50 Total

County Crawford Erie Warren

Permanent Part-time Average Number of Employees per Respondent 15.47 27.61 18.43 Total

County Crawford Erie Warren

Temporary Average Number of Employees per Respondent 2.76 11.40 3.07 Total

Respondent Total 3,755 34,572 2,898 41,225 Respondent Total 526 5,163 387 6,076 Respondent Total 69 1,527 43 1,639

Over the next 12 months, are you planning to reduce your workforce? Of the total respondents, 14 percent reported that they plan to reduce their workforce in the next 12 months.


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If yes, how many in which of the following categories: permanent full-time, permanent part-time, and temporary? The 14 percent of total respondents who reported plans to reduce their workforce in the next 12 months indicated total reductions as follows: Category Permanent full-time Permanent part-time Temporary

Current Count 41225 6076 1639

Planned Reduction 2410 137 33

Reduction % 5.8% 2.3% 2.0%

Comments: As a percentage, the largest reduction will be in permanent full-time employees (5.8 percent), with the next largest percentage coming in permanent part-time employees (2.3 percent), and the smallest percentage coming in temporary employees (2 percent). 

Over the next three years, do you expect to hire new employees? Seventy-seven percent of the total respondents stated that they expect to hire new employees over the next three years.

If yes, how many in which of the following categories: permanent full-time, permanent part-time, and temporary? The seventy-seven percent that indicated they expect to hire new employees over the next three years anticipate hiring the following numbers into the following categories: Category Permanent full-time Permanent part-time Temporary

New Hires 3270 2371 786

Possible Net Gain in Employment 2009-2011 within Respondent Group The following calculations assume that the reductions planned in 2009 will not be repeated in 2010 and 2011: Category Permanent full-time Permanent part-time Temporary

Current Count 41225

2009 Reductions 2410

2010-2011 Hires 3270

Net Gain 860

Net Gain% 2.1%

6076

137

2371

2234

37.7%

1639

33

786

753

45.9%


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What is the average age of your current workforce? Comments: The average age of an employee as reported by the respondents is approximately 39 years old. This reported average age was consistent across the three counties. Respondents from Crawford County estimated that about six percent of their workforce would be retiring in the next five years. Warren County respondents estimated that approximately 10 percent of their workforce would be retiring over the next five years. Erie County respondents indicated they expected that approximately 11 percent would be retiring.

What are the educational requirements for the majority of the entry-level workers in your facility? Survey respondents were asked to check all that applied from the following list of educational requirements:       

Experience in the field High-school education or equivalent College degree (two-year, four-year) Post-high school (certificate or diploma from technical school, etc.) Previous work experience in a related field Other None

Comments: Of the 315 people responding to this question, 197 (62.5 percent) indicated that the minimum educational requirement for the majority of the entrylevel workers in their facility was a two- or four-year college degree, or some post-high school education such as a certificate or diploma from a technical school. Experience in Field

High School Education

College Degree

Post-high School

Experience in Related Field

Other

Crawford

24

26

15

13

13

1

None 0

Total 92

Erie

109

136

97

57

109

20

10

538

Warren

9 142

21 183

10 122

5 75

8 130

1 22

0 10

54 684

Totals

How many open positions have you had in an average year? The number of open positions in an average year reported by respondents most often fell in the range of one to five.


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What skill deficits do you have in your current workforce? Please select all that apply and indicate the severity. Approximately 50 percent of the respondents identified each of the following as a skill deficiency at either a high- or medium-level of severity in their current workforce:    

Soft skills (communication, written/verbal; math; teamwork) Technical skills Critical thinking/problem-solving skills Work ethic

Forty percent of the respondents identified each of the following as a skill deficiency at either a high- or medium-level of severity in their current workforce:  

Interpersonal skills Workforce readiness Soft Skills Severe

Moderate

Low

Crawford

9

23

5

Not a Noticeable Deficit 7

Erie

31

84

45

82

Warren

4

14

4

5

Totals

44

121

54

94

County

Motor Skills County

High

Medium

Low

None

Crawford

0

7

19

17

Erie

8

17

53

164

Warren

0

3

7

17

Totals

8

27

79

198

Interpersonal Skills County

High

Medium

Low

None

Crawford

8

13

15

5

Erie

26

67

55

94

Warren

2

9

7

9

Totals

36

89

77

108


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Technical Skills High

Medium

Low

None

Crawford

County

6

19

9

9

Erie

39

75

52

76

Warren

3

9

11

4

Totals

48

103

72

89

County

None

Crawford

10

18

8

17

Erie

45

72

54

71

Warren

5

9

9

4

Totals

60

99

71

92

County

Workforce Readiness High Medium Low

None

Crawford

7

18

9

9

Erie

35

57

62

88

Warren

1

9

10

7

Totals

43

84

81

104

High

Work Ethic Medium

Low

None

Crawford

13

15

4

10

Erie

51

65

51

75

Warren

4

7

8

8

Totals

68

87

63

93

County

Critical Thinking/Problem Solving Skills High Medium Low

If you are having problems recruiting employees, why do you think this is happening? Survey respondents were asked to check all that applied from the following list of reasons why a company might have difficulty recruiting employees:          

Availability of trained workers Business reputation Location Quality of supervision Required qualifications Competitive salary and benefits Shifts Skill levels Work environment Other


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No problems

Comments: Of the 315 respondents to this question, 125 (40 percent) identified the limited availability of trained workers as a reason they were having a problem recruiting employees. Eighty-eight respondents (28 percent) reported that they were having no problems recruiting employees. Twenty percent reported skill levels, required qualifications, and competitive salary and benefits as reasons why they thought they were having a problem recruiting employees. 

If you are having problems retaining employees, why do you think this is happening? Survey respondents were asked to check all that applied from the following list of reasons why a company might have difficulty retaining employees:          

Benefits offered Business location Child care Wages Working conditions The work itself Facility environment Work schedules Other No problems

Comments: Of the 315 respondents, 154 (49 percent) reported that they did not have retention problems. Sixty-one respondents (19 percent) identified wages as a top reason for their difficulty in retaining employees. Forty-nine respondents (16 percent) identified the work itself as a top reason for their difficulty in retaining employees. About 10 percent of the respondents reported that work schedules were a reason for their employee retention problems, while the same percentage listed “other” as a reason.

E. Summary of Major Findings from the Online Survey Summary of Responses to Core Questions 

Over half of all of the respondents (56 percent) indicated they thought there would be enough students to support a community college. It should be noted that over twice as many said “yes” to this item than “no” (23 percent).

Respondents felt that all three traditional categories of potential students (current high-school students, recent high-school graduates, and adult workers) would benefit from a community college (over half rating all three categories as a high benefit).


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Over 70 percent of the respondents rated the four common community college degree types (career programs, transfer, certificate, and short-term diploma) in the “high” or “medium benefit” categories. Nearly 60 percent placed career programs in the “high benefit” category.

Most program/service areas (including occupational/technical education, job placement, career advisement, cooperative education, developmental education, continuing education, and internships) were rated at 70 percent or above in either high or medium emphasis. Interestingly, only 52 percent rated liberal arts as a high or medium emphasis. Traditionally, liberal arts programs are one of the pathways for transfer programs, which were rated fairly high in an earlier question.

There was fairly strong support for all of the various teaching methodologies provided.

There was also strong support for including certificate and licensure testing as one of the services provided by a community college. Specialized testing, workforce assessment, personal finance, and corporate training received less support, but the respondents still placed all of them at 60 percent or above in high and medium emphasis.

Summary of Responses to the High-school Student, Parent, and Adult Learner Questions 

Nearly two-thirds of parents and over two-thirds of adult learners and high-school students indicated they would consider a community college as a postsecondary option.

Fifty-five percent of the high-school student respondents indicated they wished to remain in the Erie region either immediately after high school or after postsecondary schooling.

Three out of four high-school students have set career goals, with 30 percent indicating they would like to pursue education in a STEM-related field.

Summary of Responses from Business People 

Eighty percent of the respondents indicated they were in management positions.

Respondents indicated they were associated with companies representing almost 49,000 employees.


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Fourteen percent of the respondents indicated their companies would reduce staffing over the next year. The level of reduction would be just under six percent of full-time staff, or about 2,400 workers.

However, 77 percent indicated that their companies planned on adding staff over the next three years. Additional staff included about 3,300 full-time and 2400 permanent part-time positions. This would indicate a net gain of 860 full-time and 2,300 permanent part-time employees (or about 800 per year compared to the Erie MSA Employment Projects (Section VI), of 700 new jobs per year).

The current average age of the workforce, according to respondents, is just under 40.

Sixty-two percent of the respondents indicated their minimum entry-level requirements included education and/or experience beyond high school.

About fifty percent of respondents indicated there were skill deficiencies at a high or medium level in their workforce (most often mentioned: soft skills, technology skills, critical thinking skills, and work ethic). Many also identified interpersonal skills and workforce readiness as issues (40 percent).

Forty percent of the respondents indicated they were having recruiting problems due to the lack of available trained workers, while 28 percent indicated recruitment was not a problem.

Nearly one half of the respondents indicated no workforce retention problems.


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Section VI – Summary of Other Economic and Educational Data This section of the report examines the existing data since it provides an overview of the region’s economic and workforce climate as well as the educational resources available. It is entitled, “Summary of Other Economic and Educational Data”, because it makes use of the existing data to form a picture of the region relative to the issues examined by the present study. In this way, the existing data can help provide benchmarks useful in analysis of the new data gathered, provide points of comparison between the existing data and data gathered by the current effort, and provide a measure of consistency. The data sources for the preliminary research are outlined in a previous section. It should be noted that, while all of the data sources were examined, not all have been included in this section. Much of the data between the many sources proved redundant, and many used each other as source materials. Therefore, data sources that provide some unique information or those that consolidated many previous data sources are presented in this summary. Of primary interest for the preliminary research effort were the data and statistics that directly relate to data examined in this study. To that end, this summary builds on the present study and looks at much of the same data examined in the active research conducted in the present study. The economic data primarily included information that was current in 2008 and, therefore, may not totally reflect changes due to the current recession. A. Economic and Workforce Climate Following is a discussion of the current and projected economic and workforce climate assembled from a variety of data sources. These sources will be noted during the discussion. Before proceeding, there are a couple of caveats that need to be mentioned. First, more extensive information was available for Erie County than for Warren and Crawford counties. However, some of the trend data for Erie County most likely extends to surrounding counties as well, as noted by information provided by studies done for the Northwest Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Area (Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Venango, and Warren Counties). Second, workforce data from state departments of labor and industry and others provides an accurate snapshot of information as it exists at the time the study was conducted. However, the projection models do not always take into account new business and industry or new economic development initiatives. Generally, these models are good predictors of future activity with the assumption the future will continue as it has in the past. One way to view this data and the trends suggested then, is with an assumption that these are likely scenarios without additional regional intervention. The assessment methodology used for this study encourages the generation of ideas about future action that can be used to help generate this future action. If this is the case, then the data discussed in this section can be used as benchmarks for evaluation.


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The current economic conditions show an area that is both in transition and that has been significantly affected by the recession, which began in 2008. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Workforce Information News Release (March 2009), the current unemployment in Erie County reached a rate of 7.2 percent, which is the highest in over 15 years (since October of 1993). While there was some job growth in a few sectors during 2008 and early in 2009, many industry sectors have seen the number of total jobs decline. Service providers cut 2,000 jobs in early 2009, after posting gains of 1,400 jobs in the previous year, 2008. Goods-producing jobs have declined by 600 jobs, with half of that loss occurring in the manufacturing sector. The decrease in the amount of manufacturing jobs is a continuation of a trend that started in June of 2008. The net job loss in Erie County, between January 2008 and February 2009, is about 200 jobs. This indicates the variability of job gains and losses during this time. The current (March 2009) number of seasonally adjusted jobs is at 132,800 for the county. Erie County has the 25th lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania. So, while the impact of job loss is substantial, the county has fared fairly well in comparison to other parts of the state. The unemployment rates for Crawford and Warren counties is slightly lower, at about 6.5 percent. Erie County currently has 17 employers that provided 500 or more jobs as of the third quarter of 2008. Some of these totals may have changed since that time (Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership Data). These employers include:                 

General Electric (5,600) Hamot Health Foundation (2,500) Saint Vincent Health Center (2,200) Erie Insurance Group (2,000) Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (1,600) Plastek Industries (1,200) Verizon (1,200) Dr. Gertrude A. Barber National Institute (1,000) Edinboro University (850) Scott Enterprises (800) Presque Isle Downs & Casino (800) Gannon University (700) Lord Corporation (650) PHB, Inc. (650) Snap-tite, Inc. (650) Pennsylvania State University (600) Telatron Marketing Group (600)


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This mix of employers represents manufacturing, health, insurance, and the public sectors. Recently, General Electric announced a round of job reductions. Other than General Electric, the health industry represents the next largest net employer in the county followed by a mix of industries. Crawford and Warren Counties do not have any employers that exceed 800 employees, although both have several agencies that employ several hundred people (Dunn & Bradstreet Selectory Data). Employers in Crawford County that exceed 300 employees include:       

Meadville Medical Center (661) Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (500) Channellock, Inc. (400) Allegheny College (400) Wesbury United Methodist (390) C&J Industries (375) Greenleaf Corp. (311)

Employers in Warren County that exceed 300 employees include:    

Blair Corp. (800) Warren General Hospital (530) Osram Sylvania, Inc. (475) Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (307)

As with Erie County, these employers represent a mix of both public and private companies and agencies. B. Population and Income Trends The Erie Metropolitan Area has a population of 279,092 as of the year 2008, with an estimated employment base of just over 132,000 people. There are just over 20,500 businesses in the area with about 6,600 having more than one employee. This represents a gross metro product of about $11.2 billion, with per capita income at about $29,000. The population reached its peak in the year 2000, and has been gradually declining since that time (The ERIE Guide to the Erie Economy). Population trends for Erie County indicate a level or slow decline over the foreseeable future unless market forces provide opportunities for both retaining the current population and providing opportunities for in-migration. As of July 2008, Crawford County had a population of 88,411. This represents a decline of about 2,000 people since the year 2000. There are about 33,000 jobs in the county and the average per capita wage is just under $27,000. Warren County has a population of 40,728 as of July 2008, which is a decline of about 3,000 since the year 2000. There are about 16,300 jobs in


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the county with an average per capita wage base of just under $29,000. It is expected that populations in both counties will continue to experience a level or slow decline in the foreseeable future. All three counties are predominantly white—Erie: 90 percent; Crawford: 97 percent; and Warren: 98 percent (City-Data.com). There are indications that the gradual out-migration from the Northwest Pennsylvania area is taking some individuals who are in the peak of their earning careers. The under-40 population tends to be lower than the US average except for the 18-20 age group. Additionally, the percentage of individuals in their 30’s tends to be lower than the US. However, the area has a larger senior population than the US average. Those that leave the Erie area tend to stay in Pennsylvania, however. This would tend to indicate that many people may be leaving, not necessarily to relocate to another section of the country, but rather to find better-paying jobs. Although the cost of living is slightly less than the US average (about two percent less), the average income is about 20 percent less. Additionally, the per capita income growth is lower than the rest of the US as well. Although the labor force has been relatively stable, the unemployment rate is consistently higher than the US average as is the regional welfare aid per capita. Erie residents received 23 percent more per capita aid than the US average, and about eight percent more than the Pennsylvania average (The ERIE Guide to the Erie Economy). About 9.8 percent of Erie County families have incomes below the poverty level (US Census Bureau data). Looking at the distribution of jobs in the Erie metropolitan area, manufacturing makes up about 18 percent of the total. Although the total number of manufacturing jobs has declined over recent years, because of newer technologies and processes, total manufacturing productivity continues to increase. The other industry sectors’ share of jobs include: healthcare at 14 percent; government/public employment at 11 percent; professional/business at ten percent; retail at 12 percent; leisure at nine percent; and the financial, insurance, and real estate sector at seven percent (The ERIE Guide to the Erie Economy). In the education sector, the number of K-12 students has declined by ten percent over the past decade. Without a sufficient in-migration of new residents, this number will most likely remain steady or slowly decline, as it is tied to overall population trends. This decline is consistent with national trends, especially in areas of the country that are not experiencing significant population in-migration. About seven percent of Erie County residents are enrolled in postsecondary education at the current time. This is slightly higher than the US average of six percent. However, the number of associate’s degrees awarded is less than the US average (The ERIE Guide to the Erie Economy). According to the US Census Bureau, the number of residents in Erie County with a high-school diploma, or greater, is about 85 percent, which is slightly higher than the state average of 82 percent. Of that number, about 43 percent have a high-school


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diploma, 22 percent have some college or an associate’s degree, 11 percent have a baccalaureate degree, and the rest have an advanced degree or another type of degree. C. Occupational and Job Growth Trends Looking at the current job market, about half of all the job openings in the Erie region are occurring in ten occupational groups (Occupational Employment Concentrations Analysis – NW Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Area, 2008). These occupational groups include:          

Production (highest number) Food preparation and service related (second highest) Management (third highest) Community and social service Education, training, and library Healthcare Buildings and grounds (cleaning and maintenance) Personal care Farming, fishing, and forestry Construction and extraction

These jobs require a wide range of skill sets ranging from a high-school diploma to postgraduate college experience. However, the majority require high school to some postsecondary education. Looking at future job growth, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis has generated projections for the region through the year 2014. The caveat for these projections is that they are based upon the current economic and business climate. Changing the economic development mix can impact these projections. Accordingly, the Erie MSA Industry Employment Projections estimate the greatest job growth will be in the service-providing sector. They project a net gain of 965 jobs, an increase of 9.4 percent in the sector led by the following occupational areas:          

Merchant wholesalers Motor vehicle and parts dealers Health and personal care Building material and garden supply General merchandise Management and technical consulting Professional and technical services Administrative and support services Business support services Educational services


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   

Arts, entertainment, and recreation Accommodation and food services Other services (i.e., membership associations, religious organizations, civic and social organizations Government

While any job growth is positive, and the growth in the service sectors provides additional opportunities for accommodating tourism and future population growth, the projections for job growth in other sectors is modest. The study by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis projects that the goods-producing sector (including both durable and non-durable goods manufacturing) will decline by 8.8 percent with a projected job loss of over 2800 jobs. However, as it has been noted previously, this does not necessarily mean there will be a reduction in the overall production capacity, due to the use of new technologies and other manufacturing processes. This study also projects overall net job growth between now and the year 2014 to be about 5.4 percent, with the workforce increasing from just over 132,000 jobs to just over 139,000 jobs. This would mean an annualized job growth of about 700 jobs. Assuming that the job market continues to remain relatively stable, or experiences gradual growth, another issue to be addressed is the aging workforce. Over the next five to ten years, as the baby-boomer population retires, there will be a substantial loss of qualified workers, nationally. Some national studies predict worker losses of nearly 50 percent in certain core industries. This demographic trend, coupled with the region’s experience with gradual outmigration of people in their 30’s and 40’s, may provide challenges for maintaining adequate numbers in the workforce assuming marginal economic development and in-migration of new workers. D. Aging Workforce The Northwest Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Area (which includes six counties in Northwest Pennsylvania including Erie, Crawford, and Warren) conducted a regional aging workforce analysis overview to attempt to gauge this potential problem (Aging Workforce Analysis, Northwest Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Area, 2008). This overview concludes, “Indications are that Northwest Pennsylvania may experience the impact of an aging workforce earlier than the state overall”. This can be a sobering indication, especially as the region gears for future economic development. The study goes on to say:


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“As the population and thus the workforce ages, companies may struggle to meet hiring demands and may have to compete for younger workers. Better wages, more flexible schedules, and other incentives may have to be offered by businesses to attract new, potentially younger workers.” The study predicts that between the years of 2008 and 2018, new jobs are projected to increase by 11 percent and replacement jobs are projected to increase by 32 percent in the region. This would equate to a 43 percent increase in total job openings between the years of 2008 and 2018. The study goes on to say that, “…this may present a situation for the Northwest WIA, where there may be too many jobs available and not enough workers to fill them. With this potential gap looming in the face of the Northwest WIA economy, it is critical for businesses to begin planning now for the aging workforce and how to counteract potential massive losses in older, skilled workers”. As for the timing of the impact of the aging workforce, the study suggests that, “…it appears that after 2012, the number of potential retirees will increase at a faster pace than the potential number of new admissions to the workforce. This may indicate that any new job opening created in the Northwest WIA after 2012 will remain vacant without at least leaving another job unoccupied if that position is filled. There simply may not be enough workers to fill the existing jobs, plus any new job opportunities.” The key timeline then, according to this study, is the year 2012. This would indicate that the region needs to factor the loss of the aging workforce into any economic development strategies over the next three years. The study goes on to make several suggestions for consideration as potential ways to mitigate this loss of workers. These suggestions include:      

Retraining for displaced workers Flexible work schedules Short-term training Incumbent worker training Transition the working poor Increase innovative practices

It is interesting for the purposes of the current study to note that half of the suggestions include some aspect of education. Transitioning the working poor also has implications for education. E. Gaps Analysis For the purposes of the present study, it should be acknowledged that studies looking at ways to provide additional educational resources, including the creation of a community college, have been undertaken previously by different regional groups. While the present study is independent of the previous efforts to look at the issue, it is important to consider some of the data presented


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by these efforts. For this reason, some of the observations made in the Gaps Analysis (facilitated by Public Works, LLC) can prove instructive for the current effort. The Gaps Analysis was a research effort convened by the Erie Community Foundation with funding assistance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The effort was led by a steering committee of twenty community leaders and stakeholders with the professional assistance of Public Works, LLC. The purpose of the Gaps Analysis was to examine ways to increase access to postsecondary education in the region. Some of the issues highlighted included the observation (as stated previously) that the per capita income in the region is 20 percent below the US average (the lowest comparison since the year of 1969). While the percentage of individuals who go on to college is slightly higher in the region than in the US, as a whole that number is slightly below the state average. The Gaps Analysis also made note of the out-migration of residents and considered whether additional educational resources were one option to stem that trend. The study observed that those who complete an associate’s degree will increase their earnings by 31 percent. It was also noted that the Northwest Pennsylvania region was below the state average for individuals with an associate’s degree or higher. While a number of options to increase access to postsecondary education were vetted, the Gaps Analysis committee ultimately recommended the establishment of a free-standing community college to serve Northwest Pennsylvania (Gaps Analysis, Public Works LLC, October, 2007). F. Economic and Workforce Summary Several economic and workforce challenges that impact the conclusions made in the current study are mentioned below. It should be noted that every section of the country has its own set of challenges driven by regional economic and workforce issues. Many of the challenges noted below are not unique to the Erie region. 1. The region is in economic and workforce transition. 2. There is a trend for job loss in some key sectors including manufacturing, although productivity remains high. 3. While there are projected areas of job growth, especially in healthcare and professional and technical services, much of the job growth in other occupational sectors might be in areas that will not substantially bring about new economic or demographic growth. 4. The regional unemployment rate is consistently higher than the US rate as a whole. 5. Per capita welfare aid averages higher than the US. 6. The region is experiencing steady to gradual population decline over the past decade. 7. There is some evidence that this decline is exacerbated by the higher-than-expected loss of individuals in the peak earning years (i.e., 30’s and 40’s – the so-called “brain drain”). 8. The per capita average income is about 20 percent less than the US average, while the cost of living runs only about two percent less than the US average.


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9. The K-12 system in Erie, partially as a function of the population decline, is shrinking at an average rate of about one percent per year. 10. The region has an aging population that may severely impact the ability to fill jobs starting in the next three years. 11. While there will be some higher-wage employment opportunities over the next several years, many currently underemployed workers and those receiving welfare assistance may not be qualified for those jobs without retraining efforts. 12. While the number of people who go on to postsecondary education from the region is slightly higher than the US average, it is slightly lower than the state average.

G. Educational Climate The Northwest Pennsylvania region has a rich and vibrant mix of postsecondary educational resources. Although there is no public community college, there are significant baccalaureate and graduate programs available. Several colleges and proprietary institutions also offer certificate, diploma, and associate level programs. The availability of higher education options led some to question whether or not a public community college was necessary in the region. The purpose of the current study is not to evaluate the existing offerings and options, but to determine whether there are educational needs related to the future growth and development of the region that are currently not being met. Provided below is a list of existing postsecondary education providers based in the Erie, Crawford, and Warren County area that provide accredited postsecondary educational degrees, certificates, and diplomas at the pre-baccalaureate level. The data has been compiled from several sources. First, the institution was contacted to provide the information. Many institutions were very cooperative in sharing their information; some were not. In the instances where they were not cooperative, we relied on the National Center for Educational Statistics for the appropriate information. Many institutions list programs that do not have students enrolled. For accuracy, only 2008 graduation data is provided. Therefore, an institution may have a program on file, but if there were no graduates in 2008, it is not listed. A listing of these institutions and programs is also included in Appendix F. The completion awards listed below are in two categories. The first, certificate programs (cert.), indicate programs that generally take between nine and twelve months to complete, and for which a certificate is awarded. The rest are associate degree programs, which usually take at least four semesters to complete. Associate degree programs include the AA (Associate of Arts) and AS (Associate of Science), which are designed as programs that can be transferred whole to a baccalaureate program. The other associate degree programs are designed as direct careerentry programs which, in some cases, may be transferred in part to a baccalaureate program, depending on the policies of the college awarding the baccalaureate. These programs include the


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AET (Associate of Engineering Tech), ASB (Associate of Specialized Business), AST (Associate of Specialized Technology), AENGT (Associate of Engineering Technology), and the AAS (Associate of Applied Science). The ASB and AST degrees are awarded by proprietary schools that do not have the Council for Higher Education Accreditation regional accreditation status.

1. Erie County A. Edinboro University Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

AS

Computer Science

AA

Criminal Justice

28

AS

General Business Administration

18

AA

Human Services/Developmental Disabilities

AA

Human Services/Social Services

14

AA

Liberal Studies

11

AET

Manufacturing Engineering Tech

2

AS

Preschool Education

8

1

1

B. Erie Business Center Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

ASB

Accounting

3

ASB

Computer & Information Sciences

3

ASB

Executive Assistant

5

Cert.

Executive Assistant

1

Cert.

Health Information/Medical Records

7

Cert.

Hotel, Restaurant, & Institutional Management

7

ASB

Information Sciences

11

ASB

Marketing

19

ASB

Executive Assistant/Medical Secretary

ASB

Medical Assistant

5 12


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ASB

Medical Office Management

5

ASB

Medical Transcription

2

Cert.

Nurse Aid

35

ASB

Paralegal

7

Cert.

Physical Therapist Assistant

9

ASB

Tourism & Travel Services

3

C. Erie Institute of Technology Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

AST

Computer & Information Sciences

28

AST

Electronic Engineering Tech

15

D. Gannon University Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

AS

Accounting

1

AS

Business Administration

7

AS

Criminal Justice

4

AS

Legal Studies

3

AA

Liberal Arts

2

AS

Radiological Sciences

13

AS

Respiratory Care

14

E. GECAC No Degrees awarded at this time. F. Great Lakes Institute of Technology Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

Cert.

Dental Assistant

Cert.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

27

Cert.

Massage Therapist

33

2


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Cert.

Medical Assistant

5

Cert.

Medical Admin/Executive Asst/Secretary

8

Cert.

Pharmacy Tech

29

Cert.

Surgical Tech

31

Cert.

Trade & Industrial Teacher Education

15

Cert.

Veterinary Assistant

4

G. Toni & Guy Hairdressing Academy Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

Cert.

Cosmetology Operator

79

Cert.

Manicurist

6

H. Mercyhurst College (both main campus and North East Campus locations) Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

AS

Business Administration

30

AS

Computer Systems Support

AS

Criminal Justice

29

AS

Hospitality Management

14

AS

Early Childhood Education

AS

Liberal Arts

29

AS

Nursing

66

AS

Office Management/Medical

5

AS

Physical Therapist Assistant

16

9

5

I. Northwest Regional Technical Institute Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

Cert.

Accounting & Computer Science

14

Cert.

Business Operations Support & Secretary

Cert.

Data Entry

5 10


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J. Penn State Erie – Behrend Campus Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

AS

Business/Commerce

6

AENGT

Electrical Engineering Tech

2

AS

Forest Tech

1

AA

Liberal Arts

1

AENGT

Mechanical Engineering Tech

2

AENGT

Plastics Engineering Tech

1

K. Triangle Tech Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

AST

Architectural Computer Aided Drafting

21

AST

Carpentry & Construction Tech

24

Cert.

Electrician

4

AAS

Electrician

32

AST

Mechanical Computer Aided Drafting

9

L. Tri-State Business Institute Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

AA

Accounting

19

AA

Cosmetology Operator

18

Cert.

Computer & Information Sciences

7

AS

Computer Programming

6

Cert.

Medical Assisting

1

AAS

Medical Transcription

9

AS

Nursing

153

AS

Paralegal

26

AS

Professional Administrative Assistant

10

Cert.

Welding & Fabrication

74


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2. Crawford and Warren Counties A. Precision Manufacturing Institute Degree/Certificate

Subject

2008 Awards

Cert.

Computer & Information Science

6

Cert.

Electromechanical Tech

7

Cert.

Plastics Tech

1

Cert.

Precision Production Trades

Cert.

Quality Control Tech

1

Cert.

Tool & Die Tech

4

Cert.

Welding

8

17

B. University of Pittsburgh – Titusville Degree/Certificate

Subject

AS

Biological & Physical Science

3

AS

Business

5

AS

Business Management Information Systems

4

AA

Human Services/Social Sciences

9

AA

Liberal Arts

6

AS

Nursing

AS

Physical Therapist Assistant

Total Number of 2008 Certificate and Associate Awards:

2008 Awards

14 8 1,294

In addition to the above, there are several career centers, manpower training options, and a regional technical school. They were not counted in the above totals as most of them have blended programs with K-12 or focus on adult basic education. Nevertheless, they provide important educational services for the region especially in the preparation of students to enter into the job market, college, or potentially, a community college track. These entities include Erie County Technical School, Warren County Career Center, the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit, and the region’s higher-education councils.


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H. Higher Education Trends According to studies conducted by Dr. James Kurre (Economic Research Institute of Erie, Sam & Irene School of Business, Penn State Erie, Presentation to the Erie Ambassadors, March 2009), the total postsecondary enrollment in Erie County rose from 18,706 in the year of 2001 to 23,379 in the year of 2007. He indicates that the growth in college enrollment in the county is increasing at a rate faster than it is across the country. Using Dr. Kurre’s data, and assuming that growth remains consistent with this rate (which would be the best case scenario), it would mean the total postsecondary enrollment could exceed 30,000 students within a decade. A large proportion of that enrollment would come from outside the immediate Crawford, Erie, and Warren county region. Of this number, most students are enrolled in baccalaureate programs. The number of students enrolled in associate degree programs make up about eight percent of the total, or about 1,800 students. This number includes students who are attending certificate or associate degree programs in the institutions outlined above as well as those who are attending the blended programs provided by Erie County Technical School, Warren County Career Center, and Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit. Before one makes an assumption that the current number of postsecondary pre-baccalaureate graduates is adequate, there are several questions that need to be considered. Does this number represent sufficient opportunities for students seeking education at a community college level? Are there sufficient opportunities for non-traditional students who would seek education at a community college level? Does the current educational climate provide the workforce skills necessary, and in sufficient number, to meet anticipated workforce demands? Also, if additional economic development strategies are implemented, and the region capitalizes on newer industry sectors and growth opportunities, will there be a sufficient skilled workforce to capitalize on these opportunities? The interview and forum respondents indicated there is a need for additional educational options as well as for more trained workers. Also, the following examination of the current postsecondary enrollment trend of recent high school graduates also indicates a need for additional options. I. Community College Enrollment Projection Students in community colleges come from two distinct populations. The first population represents recent high-school graduates; the second population represents older adults. In fact, the average age of a community college student is nearly 30. There are several reasons for the age distribution in community colleges. For some high-school aged students, community colleges are often the only affordable access to postsecondary education. For others, it gives them the opportunity to build needed skills prior to completing a


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baccalaureate elsewhere. Still, for others, it may mean the community college provides the education they seek for a career choice. For older students, community colleges can also represent an affordable alternative. For others it can represent retraining options necessary to pursue a changed career goal. For many adult workers, it can provide a way to build learning skills and self confidence after years away from formal education. The Pennsylvania Department of Education provides an annual statistical report (Public Schools High School Graduates 2006 – 2007) providing data about the state’s high schools and their graduates. Included in that report (Appendix C) is county-by-county data showing total graduates for that county as well as those who go on to enroll in a postsecondary institution. Additionally, the type of postsecondary institution is outlined, including community college, private two-year, state university, state-related university, private four-year college or university, and other postsecondary (i.e., AST/ASB) institutions, as well as students who enroll in out-ofstate schools. The AST or ASB designation represents specialized associate degree programs offered by proprietary schools. Between the years of 2006–2007, about 72 percent of the 128,600 graduating class went on to a postsecondary institution. Of these, looking at the state-wide average, 20.4 percent enrolled in a public community college, 2.3 percent enrolled in a private two-year college, and approximately five percent enrolled in an AST/ASB program. In Erie County, less than one percent enrolled in a public community college, while 6.5 percent enrolled in a private college offering two-year programs, and 11 percent enrolled in an AST/ASB program. In Crawford and Warren counties, the numbers of students enrolling in a public community college was also substantially below the state average, while the number enrolling in private two-year or AST/ASB programs was higher than the state average. This is not surprising given there is no regional community college nearby in the state, and, as shown above by the summary of associate level programs in regional colleges and schools, there are several options provided by private and proprietary institutions. What if there was a public two-year community college in the region, and what if students enrolled in that community college at rates equal to the state average? What would the enrollment projection look like for the three counties? Taking the total number of college-bound high-school graduates in the three counties, and multiplying by the state average of 20.4, we would expect the annual number of graduates enrolling in the regional community college to be just under 600. Now, if we assume that the existing providers would not be affected (that is, the same number of high-school graduates would still attend these institutions), the number of highschool graduates attending a regional community college drops to 368. This would not be the total enrollment, however. According to the American Association of Community Colleges (aacc.nche.org/fast facts), the average number of community college students nationally that are 21 years old and under, represent only about 40 percent of the total


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enrollment. Assuming the same proportion holds true in the case of the Erie region, then the number would be between 1,465 on the high side and 920 on the low side. However, this enrollment projection is only for the first year of the two-year program. Generally, about 70 percent of first-year students return for the second year. Assuming this number would be true in the case of the Erie region, the total enrollment at a regional community college after the first year would range between 2,550 students on the high side and 1,564 students on the low side. In other words, a regional community college could enroll 1,564 students without affecting the current enrollment patterns of existing regional institutions. However, this does not take into account additional employee training programs, lifelong learning programs, and other services generally provided by a community college. Also, this number would not reflect enrollments after the first few years of community college operations. As a community college becomes established within the regional culture, we could anticipate total market penetration that would fall somewhere between the Pennsylvania and national market penetration totals (i.e., between two and three percent of the over-18 population). Expected Community College Enrollment Range Based on Either High or Low Impact on Existing Providers after the First Few Years of Operation High Impact on Existing Education Providers (i.e. all of their

Low Impact on Existing Education Providers (i.e. same

cert. and associate’s degree students go to the CC)

percentage of HS graduates still enroll in their programs)

600

368

900

552

Assume 70 percent retention rate in second year of twoyear program

1050

644

Total expected enrollment range at the community college

2550

1564

2006 – 2007 HS Graduates in Crawford, Erie, and Warren Counties Assume state average of 20.4 percent of HS graduates go to a oneor two-year program Additional 60 percent of total, not recent HS graduates (i.e. additional

600

students to be expected according to national average)


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The range above represents the anticipated number of students in credit programs seeking either a certificate or associate’s degree. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, credit students represent about 50 percent of the total number of students at a community college. The rest of the students are in shorter term, non-credit programs that could include industry-specific training, continuing education and lifelong learning programs, or programs for general improvement. Based upon these projections, it is clear that a regional community college would attract a significant number of students even assuming there will be no enrollment impact on existing providers. Additionally, the interview and forum respondents strongly believe that a community college is necessary based upon the need for more skilled workers and a better trained workforce. When all factors are considered, we believe a strong case has been made for developing a community college to serve the Crawford, Erie, and Warren County region.


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Section VII – Summary of Significant Findings across Methodologies A. Introduction The Clements Group has had the privilege of conducting a number of studies looking at community colleges across the US. Our team has looked at economic and workforce data in a number of locations. In many areas there are significant points of difference between stakeholders in both identifying problems, and in determining solutions. This study has been different. Three methodologies were used to gather primary data. First, key stakeholders were interviewed about the regional economic and educational climate. Second, a series of forums were conducted with individuals representing stakeholder interest sectors. Third, an open-ended online survey was conducted yielding nearly 2100 responses. Across the board, there is general agreement about the problem, and, in many instances, agreement about potential solutions. This level of agreement is rarely seen. In addition, existing economic and demographic data were reviewed to determine whether primary data indicated trends and challenges suggested by other sources. While our initial intent was to present the data from the various methods in an organized way, point to significant area of data agreement, and suggest how the data would best be interpreted, the strong results support making an even stronger conclusion. We found significant support for the concept of a community college in each of the methodologies used regardless of the differences in study demographics. Also, regardless of the methodology, the issues, challenges, and concerns about the economic and educational climate were very similar.

B. General Summary of Responses Erie County and the surrounding areas that include Crawford and Warren counties have experienced significant challenges over the past decade, and in some instances, even longer. The population base has been either steady or in slow decline. The number of residents receiving welfare assistance, especially in Erie County, exceeds the national and state average. While the cost of living is slightly lower than the US average, the average wage is significantly lower. Manufacturing has been a critical component of the economy and the workforce for many years. While manufacturing and production will remain a vital part of the economy, and will most likely grow in regional economic impact, because of new technologies and processes, the workforce required in that sector will most likely decline. There was evidence of a regional “brain drain” with the number of workers in their 30’s and 40’s averaging less than in other parts of the state and country. The regional K-12 education system has been slowly losing students over the past decade. While there will be some job growth over


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the next several years, much of the growth is not necessarily tied to jobs that will significantly impact economic growth. The trend in out-migration of some workers in their peak productive years coupled with impending baby-boomer retirement will strain existing business and industry to find sufficient workforce in the future. However there is cause for optimism. Key stakeholders, including the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, the Economic Development Corporation of Erie County, and the Northwest Industrial Resource Center, among others, have been aggressively targeting economic development opportunities and have worked closely with city, county, and state elected officials to craft strategies for bringing about new opportunities for economic development and regional growth. Some other factors are also encouraging. More than half of the high-school students in the study indicated they wanted to either stay in the region, or return following college. That desire to stay in the region is a huge asset not only for the workforce, but also for other aspects of regional growth. However, both they and their parents were concerned about whether there will be jobs that pay decent wages, and whether there will be jobs that match their chosen career field. While some employment areas are shrinking, others indicate growth. One example is the healthcare field. The healthcare industry is expected to see continued growth over the next several years. This is partly due to an aging population. Also, there will be growth in professional and technical fields. This was underscored not only through Department of Labor & Industry data, but also from many who participated in the study. There was also significant agreement about the development of new business and industry in the region. While it would be positive to have existing industry relocate to the Erie region, many stakeholders are confident that growth can also be accomplished by growing businesses regionally. Specifically, there is general agreement that new companies, both high-tech, agricultural, and others, can be attracted by exploiting the abundance and quality of water resources. New entrepreneurs can be encouraged to start new companies both in technology services and high technology production. Tourism is seen as another potential growth industry. There is confidence that the areaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s location, including the interstate highway system, marine shipping, proximity to large urban areas, and overall quality of life, provide advantages that can be used for future growth. To accomplish new economic development, however, current challenges need to be met. There was concern among almost all stakeholders about the workforce. This concern took many forms, but, were related to education and training. Is there a way to provide training to the working poor that can help transition them to better paying jobs that will be needed now and in the future? As companies change technologies and processes, are there ways to provide site-based training and ongoing continuing education that will allow workers to acquire new skill sets? Also, there


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needs to be a way for working adults, who are under-skilled or under-employed, to easily access affordable education options. Additionally, there was concern about some skill deficiencies both in the existing workforce and the next generation of workers. Of the most concern was the need for basic skills, work ethic, soft skills (i.e., communication, writing and math skills), critical-thinking skills, and general workplace skills. There was general agreement that high schools and postsecondary institutions need to continue to target these skill sets. There was also concern that there may not be enough workers to fill technical and supervisory positions in the future. One method of addressing these issues would be the creation of a community college. There was strong support for a community college among both the interview and forum groups. The majorities in both groups believe a community college could provide important services that could impact not only the challenges faced by business and industry, but also some of the challenges faced by young people and working adults while providing significant educational opportunity. There was also acknowledgement about the high quality of the existing public, private, and proprietary schools and colleges currently serving the region. It was suggested that if a community college is developed, there should be opportunities for partnerships with existing educational resources from its inception.

C. Recurring Questions In preparing this study, and in subsequent conversations with stakeholders in the interviews and forums, five questions were commonly asked. First, was there support for a community college? Second, if a community college were created, should it include transfer as well as career programs? Third, what challenges would a community college face, and how could it best address those challenges? Fourth, how should a community college work with existing postsecondary providers? Fifth, how should funding challenges best be addressed? The study looked at all five of these questions in several different ways in the methodology. There was a rich variety of information provided in the study responses and we recommend reviewing the complete data. However, in the next section of this summary we provide an overview of responses relating to these questions. The importance of the questions suggested that the answers to each need to form the basis of study recommendations.


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D. Summary of Significant Findings Related to Recurring Questions In this section of the report those commonalities will be highlighted and used, as appropriate, as the basis for the recommendations that follow in the next section. Please note that not all questions appeared in each of the three methodologies, so only responses to similar questions appear in the summaries below. Please refer to the appropriate report section for more complete presentation of the results and discussion of the findings. 1. There is strong support for a regional community college. a. Should a community college be created? 

Interview responses yielded 75 percent indicating a community college would be “very important” or “somewhat important” for the region (with 67 percent indicating “very important”).

Employer Group Forum responses yielded 71 percent indicating a community college would be “very important” or “somewhat important” for the region (with 42 percent indicating “very important”).

User Group Forum responses (which included parents, adult learners, and highschool students) yielded 71 percent indicating a community college would be “very important” or “important” (with 43 percent indicating “very important”).

b. Why would a community college be important? 

Interview respondents indicated the following concerns which could be addressed by a regional community college (most common responses): o Loss of talent in the area o Lack of skilled workers o Need for enhanced training o Low-cost training resources to meet the need of current industry o Maintaining educational affordability o Strengthening workforce preparedness o Having a sufficient pool of workers over the next five years o The need for additional training resources and options


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Forum respondents indicated the following concerns which could be addressed by a regional community college (most common responses): o Maintaining the availability of a qualified workforce o Overcoming the loss of talent due to retirement and out-migration o Maintaining an adequate number of skilled workers o Providing more affordable educational options o Providing more accessible educational options o Availability of programs aligned to the needs of the community

Survey respondents indicated the following concerns that could be addressed by a regional community college (most common responses): o Maintaining the availability of trained workers o Addressing skill deficiencies in the existing workforce

c. Would there be enough students to support a community college? 

67 percent of interview respondents indicated there would be enough students.

81 percent of parents in the forums indicated that a community college would be an attractive or somewhat attractive option.

77 percent of high-school students in the forums indicated that a community college would be an attractive or somewhat attractive option.

60 percent of parents in the survey indicated they would consider a community college for their children if it was available.

75 percent of adult learners in the survey indicated they would consider a community college if it was available.

67 percent of high-school students in the survey indicated they would consider a community college if it was available.

State of Pennsylvania graduation data indicating community college market penetration statewide indicates a regional community college could expect an enrollment between 1,500 and 2,500 students per year, not including on-site employee training or other employee training programs.


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2. The college should include both career programs as well as college transfer programs. a. Support for career and transfer programs: 

92 percent of the interview respondents rated college transfer programs as “very important” or “somewhat important” (with over 50 percent rating them as “very important”).

99 percent of the interview respondents rated career programs (leading to direct employment) as “very important” or “somewhat important” (with 92 percent rating them as “very important”).

79 percent of the survey respondents rated career programs as having a high or medium priority.

74 percent of the survey respondents rated college transfer programs as having a high or medium priority.

b. Support for other educational options: 

86 percent of the interview respondents rated lifelong learning programs as “very important” or “somewhat important”.

91 percent of the interview respondents rated business and industry site-based training as “very important” or “somewhat important”.

87 percent of the interview respondents rated continuing education programs as “very important” or “somewhat important”.

73 percent of the survey respondents indicated certificate programs as having either a high or medium priority.

Additional results from the interview respondents suggest specific programs, curricular emphasis, and other skill areas that the community college should emphasize. Those are incorporated in the following section.

The employers group forum responses also indicated a priority for STEM-related programs.


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3. Challenges a community college would face indicate the region would best be served through a regional governing system. a. The data from the interviews supporting this conclusion include (most common responses): 

The need to build awareness of the need and value of education.

Determining and consistently meeting constituent needs.

Implementing advisory boards.

Capitalizing on the willingness of stakeholders to support the college.

Cultivating and maintaining support from community and educational leaders.

b. The data from the forums supporting this conclusion include (most common responses): 

Maintaining affordability and flexibility.

Aligning programs with community and regional needs.

4. The college could benefit from establishing partnerships with existing institutions where appropriate. a. Results from the interviews supporting this conclusion include the following common recommendations (most common responses): 

The college should partner with existing institutions.

The college should cultivate support from other educational institutions.

Be aware of the strong regional postsecondary system.

b. Results from the forums supporting this conclusion include the following recommendations (most common responses): 

Complement existing educational institutions.

Be aware of the competition with other educational institutions.

c. Data from the surveys also indicate that many occupations with similar career pathways include jobs requiring education at the certificate/associate’s level as well as the baccalaureate level and above.


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5. There is concern about community college funding and a need to look for funding alternatives to complement traditional sources. a. Concern about funding was expressed in both interview and forum responses (most common responses): 

Interview respondents specifically noted concern about a possible tax increase.

Interview respondents also noted the college would face funding challenges.

Forum respondents noted concerns both about the overall cost and the possible impact on taxpayers.

b. However, several suggestions of approaches and alternative funding options were suggested (most common responses): 

56 percent of the interview respondents indicated a willingness to contribute either financially or in other ways to help support the community college.

Interview respondents also suggested that the college should be able to demonstrate its “return on investment”.

Interview respondents also suggested cultivating foundation and private-sector business support.

Interview respondents also indicated it should be a priority to look for alternative strategies for college funding.


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Section VIII â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Recommendations The results of the primary research across all of the methodologies are very clear: There is strong support for a regional community college. This support came from a realization in the region that there are current unmet educational needs which are also likely to grow in the future. The results also show that there are key demographic sectors, including high-school students, recent graduates not attending college, working adults, and the under-skilled or under-employed, who would benefit from a community college option. A regional community college would not only provide additional critical educational alternatives, but would also serve the short- and long-term economic and workforce development needs of the region by (a) providing affordable and accessible education and training in critical areas, (b) aligning career pathways and educational programs more directly to economic development goals, and (c) providing accountable and convenient resources for postsecondary educational services that address community and regional needs. The quality and variety of existing regional postsecondary resources are impressive; however, if the existing resources were filling the needs just outlined, then the results of the research would have turned out differently.

1. Major Recommendations a. Recommendation One: Create a regional community college with a goal to begin service as soon as practical. The service area for the new college should include Erie, Warren, and Crawford counties. The data indicated a sufficient number of students in the region to support the college. Based upon market penetration data in Pennsylvania and our firmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experience nationally, we estimate, by the fifth year of operation, the enrollment will be between 1,500 and 2,000 students. These students will come directly from high school, business and industry employees, and the adult population. Since the current need is strong, and the support is there now, we recommend proceeding quickly with the application process. The goal should be to have the college operational in advance of anticipated employee losses due to baby-boomer retirement starting in 2012, and in coordination with regional economic development targets. b. Recommendation Two: The college should offer both career and college transfer options. The results of the study made clear both the need and desire to provide a full range of academic options for students. College transfer programs can address those STEM fields that will have regional importance in the future. Additionally, the transfer programs can serve as a bridge to regional baccalaureate colleges for students who might not otherwise attend. Providing this option, especially in areas that are correlated with future job opportunities, will also help keep people in the region. Career programs that lead to direct employment following graduation should also be tied to current and anticipated workforce needs. In


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addition, the college should work closely with employers to provide certificate and diploma programs, on-site training, and lifelong-learning programs that are essential for the current workforce. The college should also work closely with the existing schools and colleges to develop articulation agreements, which will also help retain adults in the region if they are interested in post-associate education. An initial set of career and transfer program recommendations is presented in Part B of this section. c. Recommendation Three: Establish a regional governing system that is accountable to stakeholders. The college should be governed by a regional board of directors representing all three counties as well as the major business, community, and community service sectors of the region. In this way college operation, products, and services are accountable to those who will benefit by them. The research made very clear that part of the strong support for creating a community college is the advantage of local control. A major part of local control includes the opportunity for local businesses and industries to help set the vision and priorities for the college. That will not happen if responsibility is passed to a governing system that represents another region, in the case of an outside community college, or where motivation is primarily driven by numbers, as it is with private and proprietary institutions. During the course of this study, options were discussed that provide alternatives to the creation of a separate community college. Two of these options included: reaching out to a proprietary school to provide additional training options, or, inviting another community college to establish a local presence. We would recommend against these two options. Also, as previously noted, transfer programs are a priority. That option would be limited in a private- or proprietaryschool solution. d. Recommendation Four: Establish partnerships where it is mutually beneficial. While study participants strongly favored an independent public community college, the advantages of partnerships with existing postsecondary providers were also frequently noted. In some instances, existing providers may have technology and systems in place that could prevent duplication. In other instances, a combined marketing effort might be mutually advantageous. In still other instances, a combined partnership between the community college, a fouryear program, and certain business and industry sectors might provide necessary services in the most efficient way. The goal for the community college should be to remain flexible. The college must first set its strategic vision in concert with economic, workforce, and community needs, and then explore the most costeffective and efficient ways to meet them. Where partnership options make sense, they should be fully explored.


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e. Recommendation Five: Look for innovative ways to help finance the college. The biggest concern for some study participants was cost. The major concern centered on the possible need to increase taxes to support the college. However, many participants realized part of their state taxes are already helping to fund community colleges in other regions. We recommend a commitment from the outset to explore innovative ways to help fund the start-up and ongoing costs for the community college. Nationally, best practices for alternative methods of revenue generation for community colleges include: establishing a dedicated foundation with goals of building endowments; and funding academic chairs, capital expansion, technology investment, scholarships, etc., from private-sector investments. A goal among many community colleges is to target, over time, up to 20 percent of their total budget from foundation sources; we recommend that as a working goal from the outset. Also, the college should establish goals for private-sector training contracts and other types of partnerships to help defray costs. As noted previously, partnerships with other educational providers can help offset costs. The college can also be very aggressive with grant applications, because, being new, there will be interest in how the college evolves. In addition, the college should establish a vision for being entrepreneurial. Look for ways to encourage the development and marketing of products and services in cooperation with the private sector. Create your own funding road.

2. Secondary Recommendations a. Recommendation Six: Initial Programs of Study. During the study we had the opportunity to review a variety of resources and to hear a number of recommendations concerning programs that participants believe should be provided by the community college. Programs will evolve over time based upon the input of advisory committees, in conjunction with educational partnerships, and through consultation with the private sector. However, a plan must be developed that provides rationale for an initial set of program offerings. Not all of these will be attainable in the first year or two of operation, but they can serve as a suggested blueprint as the community college evolves. The following program recommendations are based on several sources. First, study participants recommended many programs or general fields of study they believed were needed either now or in the future. Second, we looked at occupational forecasts for this region that indicated areas of specific current and future demand. Third, we looked at economic development goals as established by study participants, and included programs that would enhance the workforce for those efforts. Many of these recommendations overlapped. They form the core recommendations for the career programs (associate of applied science [AAS]/certificate). Since study participants also strongly recommended including career transfer programs, we examined those options as well. Transfer programs include the associate of science (AS) and associate of arts (AA) degrees.


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To establish our recommendations for these programs, we looked at two issues. First, we examined common AS and AA programs across community colleges. Second, we looked at the economic development goals from the study as well as the STEM recommendations. Together these formed the basis for our AA and AS recommendations. Finally, we looked at variables such as development costs and workforce priorities to establish recommendations for initial offerings as well as future programs. Initial program recommendations are: 

AAS/certificate (Career Programs) o Biotechnology Tech o CAD/Mechanical Engineering o CNC Machining o Computer Support Tech o Electronics Tech o GIS/Mapping Tech o Health Information Tech o Web Tech o Management Tech o Parks and Natural Resources o Welding  Note: These sets of programs address several issues that came out in the study. First is the need for additional skilled people to support the manufacturing sector that would include CAD, CNC, and welding and electronic tech programs. There was strong interest in programs to support communications technology; programs would include computer support tech and web tech. Next, there is a need for programs directed toward building workforce capacity for future industry. Based upon economic development initiatives suggested by the study, this would include biotechnology, GIS, and parks and natural resources (tourism growth). We are recommending healthinformation tech as an initial program in the Allied Health field. However, future health programs should complement those currently offered by existing providers. Finally, in addressing concerns about supervisory capacity, we are recommending management tech. With the exception of CAD and CNC, most of these programs would be relatively low cost to start up in the initial phases of college development and would likely have strong student appeal.

AA Programs (Career Transfer Programs) o Agriculture o Computer Science o Business  Economics note: Agriculture was suggested as an option for support of the growing winery industry and other area agricultural efforts. The other three programs would support existing industry.


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AS Programs (Career Transfer Programs) o Engineering o Environmental Science o Biotechnology o Mathematics  Note: Engineering was included as a two-year engineering program and mentioned many times during the study by business and industry participants. The other programs are tailored for existing industry and for future industry sectors. They are also related to STEM initiatives.

Future Program Considerations:  AAS/Certificate (Career Programs) o Transportation Tech o Construction Management o Culinary Arts o Graphics Communication Tech o Health Occupations o Other Skilled Trades  The growth of health occupation and other skilled trade programs must be done in conjunction with the industries involved as well as other educational providers. The other recommendations are based on occupational growth forecasts. 

AA Programs o Art o Music o Sociology o Political Science  These programs are suggested because they represent a natural evolution on liberal arts transfer programs and will help round out the AA offerings.

AS Programs o Chemistry o Physics  These are basic STEM majors and also provide a natural evolution of the AS side of transfer programs.

b. Recommendation Seven: Continue to communicate with stakeholders. This study involved communication with almost 2,300 individuals. Most of them were very interested in the decision to be made; many were willing to provide support if the decision was made to move ahead with a community college. A few have concerns about such a step. Regardless, they were all hoping for transparency in the process.


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We recommend keeping communication open by: ď&#x201A;ˇ ď&#x201A;ˇ

Developing methods to regularly provide progress updates Inviting volunteers into committees and solicit help for projects

This will go a long way toward keeping everyone involved. c. Recommendation Eight: Use these tools for future study. Three unique tools were developed for this study: an interview format, forum format, and an online format. We would recommend that you replicate this study either in part or in whole every three to five years. This will begin to give you longitudinal data and will provide evaluative information against benchmarks suggested in the current study. The process used for this study included methodologies for involving a large number of people in a relatively short amount of time. This provides a good avenue for ongoing communication and data gathering. We ask that our firm is acknowledged as the developer of the tools. d. Recommendation Nine: Visit other communities with a community college. It is important for stakeholders to see firsthand the opportunities and resources a community college can provide for a region. In the early stages of development, effort should be made to create site-visitation teams. Many questions about community colleges and their impact on communities, business and industry, and other colleges and universities can best be answered by visiting them. These should include out-of-state community colleges as well as in-state. This can provide experiences of a wide variety of community college options. The Clements Group can provide recommendations and additional information. e. Recommendation Ten: Address the educational needs expressed. One of the realities of this type of research is the creation of expectations. Stakeholders had the opportunity to express concerns about the economic and educational environment; to outline needs, concerns, and challenges they face; and the opportunity to make recommendations. If the decision is made not to move forward with creating a community college, these concerns still need to be addressed soon and in an organized way. If a community college is not going to be created, then an alternative plan that substantively responds to these issues must be developed in the very near future.


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Section IX – Conclusion One of the primary purposes of this study was to conduct a community assessment relative to perceived educational needs. In the end, the methodologies used allowed the researchers to interact with about 2,300 people. Through those methods and the analysis of the data we are convinced that educational needs exist in the region, and that a community college could address some of the more significant needs. This report is an overview of the data that was compiled for the purposes of the study as outlined in the project deliverables. However, the process yielded data that can be used in other ways. The appendices to this report contain the instruments and much of the additional data. We would encourage stakeholders to review this data in more detail and to use the additional data for other purposes as appropriate. Should a community college be developed, this data can serve as benchmarks in its development. The needs and the rated importance of those needs can serve as evaluative criteria for the future. Finally, the Clements Group would like to thank the Northwest IRC, the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, REthink Erie, and the many fine people from many organizations who gave significant time and effort in support of this study. We would especially like to acknowledge Mary Bula and Judith Fagin, who have been tireless in their advice and encouragement.

REthink Erie | Full Report  

http://www.rethinkerie.com

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