ACC pushing to help Austinites earn more than just a minimum wage

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When you walk into a class that’s part of Austin Community College’s Career ACCelerator program, Director David Borden says you’ll find people of all ages and from different backgrounds.

“It’s people who are…they may be working in food service, they may be working in hospitality, they may be working in all sorts of service industries, usually where the wages aren’t as high as where they could be in these other opportunities,” he said.

The Career ACCelerator is a program for non-traditional students. It helps them to move from being underemployed to working in fast-growing industries, such as health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology and skilled trades like auto mechanics.

“You really get to see a change in these students’ lives,” Borden said. “Students will come back and tell you they had chronic medical issues, but they’re now fixed because they got health insurance with their new employer.”

Borden said the program not only teaches the skills necessary, but also connects students to paid internships.

“They need to have a part time job. They need financial aid. They need scholarship money. They need to put together a lot of different things to be able to get there and that’s what we help them do,” Borden said.

President of ACC Richard Rhodes said one of the biggest challenges students face when completing a program for a new career is time commitment.

“You know, life is happening to them, so they may be buried in family, they have to put food on the table, so how do they position themselves to do both?” he said. “So the best way to do that is if you can have a career pathway, internship available to them.”

3-year graduation rates vs. other completion rates

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, ACC’s 3-year graduation rate is about 8 percent. They said that rate is low compared to other community colleges.

However, ACC points out the rate is looking at how many full-time students, who enroll in college for the first time, are graduating in three years.

They said many students attend ACC part-time, and about half of the students transfer to four-year institutions.

According to a new report released by ACC and the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the number of workforce credentials earned by ACC graduates increased from 5,597 in 2014 to 8,498 in 2018 — a 52% increase.

  • In health sciences, the completion rate increased 12%.
  • In manufacturing, construction and applied technology, the rate increased by 42%.
  • In information technology and computer science, the rate increased by 11%.

Additionally, the report found ACC graduates earn about $10,800 more each year than those with just a high school diploma in Texas.

Borden said the Career ACCelerator is part of ACC’s bigger effort to boost the school’s completion rates. They offer personalized help and career-focused programs.

“Because we have such a diverse group of students coming into the college we have to have a very diverse approach,” he said.

Helping more locals qualify for job opportunities in Austin

“When unemployment is 2.1%…2.3%, everybody is scrambling to find skilled employees in the IT industry,” said Rhodes.

He said ACC’s goal is to continue to provide opportunities for Austinites to pursue careers in the city’s growing industries.

“There’s a lot of people that have been left out of this economic prosperity, and we’re really working very hard to develop programs to help those people get involved in these high pay occupations,” Borden added.

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