Increasing Opportunity Through Nevada’s Community Colleges•
As I write this post, Nevada ranks last in the nation on the Opportunity Index, a data-rich tool that measures the conditions present in communities that can expand or restrict upward mobility. In an effort to gain some insight as to what is truly challenging Nevada and what can be done to fix some of the underlying problems, I looked for answers at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN). With more than 44,000 students, this community college in Las Vegas is one of the largest post-secondary institutions west of the Mississippi.
Why did I start looking for ways to expand opportunity at a community college? Because I believe these institutions have a unique role in US education and serve as a critical pathway to the middle class. By far the most cost-effective post-secondary option for students, community colleges have extremely diverse student bodies in terms of age, race and gender and socio-economic background. Community college students also tend to be older and career-focused.
As Managing Director of Certiport’s IC3 Digital Literacy Certification, a credential that shows the work readiness of millions of students to employers, I see firsthand how much students need valuable digital skills that help them to succeed in a variety of fields. Certiport’s IC3 works with both secondary schools and higher education, including at the College of Southern Nevada and other community colleges.
No matter what field you enter today, computers and technical skills are bound to be part of the job description. That’s why digital literacy, and the kind of assurance Certiport’s IC3 certification offers to employers, are so important.
Despite the state’s low ranking on multiple economic measures, Margaret Taylor, Computer Information Department Chair at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, said she remains optimistic about the future of Nevada’s teens and young adults. Digital literacy is a key to their future success, she says.
“Most people presume that young people have the computer skills they need to do a job, and that’s just not the case,” she said. “Digital natives are a myth.” There is a huge disconnect between the skills young people learn on their own and the expectations of employers, she says. “Computer skills are just as important as English and math in this day and age. Everyone is testing on English and math skills, but most people overlook critical digital skills.”
CSN recently aligned their basic technology course, IS101 Core Computing Competency, with the objectives of the IC3 Digital Literacy Certification. “Certiport did a great job creating a standard that reflects the expectations of employers,” said Margaret. We have a number of international students here at CSN and we wanted to use a credential that is globally recognized and would be valuable to our students whether they stay here in Nevada or go back home. IC3 does that for us.”
Students in various classes need these digital skills, from business management and finance, to engineering technology to aviation and air conditioning technology. If you look at job descriptions on ONET, computer skills are in just about every job description. The College of Southern Nevada is preparing their students to win those jobs. “We certified over 2,000 students last year in IC3 and anticipate certifying over 4,000 next year,” Margaret shares.
Any company hiring in Nevada can be confident that their new hires from CSN will have the foundational digital skills needed to do the job.
I would have to say that I, too, am optimistic about the future for young people in Nevada. As part of the Opportunity Nation campaign, Certiport’s IC3 program hopes to play a part of expanding education and economic opportunity to more young people across the country.Nich Haber (@NichHaber) is the Managing Director of IC3, the Digital Literacy Certification for Certiport, A Pearson VUE Company. IC3 has defined the foundation level digital skills for work readiness and has delivered over three million exams in 78 countries. Nich Haber is based in Providence, RI and New York City.