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Business Perspective: Community colleges help build NH’s future workforce

Business Perspective: Community colleges help build NH’s future workforce

BIA supports increased investment in vital contributor to state’s economy

The vibrance of New Hampshire’s economy doesn’t happen by chance. It requires a lot of effort to align the many interdependent forces that can enhance or inhibit the productivity and prosperity we hope to see for all New Hampshire residents.

The Business and Industry Association’s legislative priorities this session include increasing support for the state’s community college and university systems. We appreciate the leadership we saw in Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget plan that calls for expanded investment in public postsecondary education, because nurturing talent in every corner of our state, and engaging every person interested in contributing to that effort, is essential for our success. It’s also essential to help solve New Hampshire’s ongoing worker shortage. States that make long-term investments in workforce development will have the broadest and most lasting economic growth.

I’d like to focus on the Community College System of New Hampshire, a unique and vital contributor to the state economy. CCSNH provides educational bridges students take directly to employers, as well as elevators and ladders that create even more opportunities for mobility into and across New Hampshire’s labor market.

CCSNH’s seven colleges offer over 200 degree and certificate programs. Those take place in campus classrooms and laboratories, but also in specialized teaching facilities that support the education of FAA-certified aviation technicians, ASME certified welders, CDL-qualified drivers, and many of the industry-recognized credentials that create high demand for graduates of their automotive technician programs. 

Culinary arts programs are delivered in restaurant-quality kitchen facilities, and the Susan D. Huard Advanced Technologies Building at Manchester Community College provides leading-edge learning for the next generation of workers in electrical technologies, HVAC and Mechatronics. CCSNH simulation labs complement clinical placement sites across New Hampshire to support the education of more than 400 CCSNH graduates who join the state’s health-care workforce each year. 

Even specialized learning spaces don’t fully describe what CCSNH provides for students and employers. Since 2016, CCSNH’s ApprenticeshipNH has worked with more than 60 employers in numerous industries including health care, hospitality, construction, information technology and manufacturing to develop more than 100 different apprenticeship programs. These programs serve nearly 700 students, supporting learning, career advancement and the state’s workforce needs with an earn-and-learn model that removes barriers for workers and employers.

Apprenticeships include certified clinical medical assistants through White Mountains Community College’s partnerships with Coos Family Health Services and Androscoggin Valley Hospital; licensed nursing assistants and medical assistants through Manchester Community College’s partnerships with Catholic Medical Center and Elliot Health System; and a precision inspector apprenticeship through Nashua Community College’s partnership with BAE Systems. A current grant, one of several totaling more than $13 million over the past several years, is being used to develop pre-apprenticeship programs for high school students. CCSNH is leveraging its most recent federal grant to build hubs throughout the state to partner with local employers to develop apprenticeships that are responsive to the unique industry needs of each region. 

CCSNH is also partnering with employers to strengthen New Hampshire’s incumbent workforce through customizable programs offered by each college’s business training center. Great Bay Community College has worked with Exeter-based CAES to provide training that included blueprint reading and radiofrequency troubleshooting for electrical assemblers. Nashua Community College developed a microelectronics bootcamp in partnership with BAE Systems and is now participating in the Northeast Microelectronics Coalition. Lakes Region Community College has partnered with Mercury Marine on the Mercury Outboard certificate. River Valley Community College developed a fast-track Licensed Nursing Assistant Program to respond to the needs of Dartmouth Health, and NHTI-Concord’s Community College’s continuing education programs support allied dental health practitioners throughout New Hampshire.

This myriad of learning opportunities helps meet the changing needs of New Hampshire’s employers and its workforce. The future will require career-long, accessible learning to allow people, employers and industries to adapt as technology, the economy and people’s lives change. Our community colleges are well-positioned to provide bridges, elevators and ladders to help make this work. An increased state investment will strengthen the community college system and help build New Hampshire’s workforce.

Michael Skelton is president and CEO of the Business & Industry Association, New Hampshire’s statewide chamber of commerce and leading nonpartisan business advocate. Visit

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