Home Career Faculty in High Demand Fields: Reader Responses

Faculty in High Demand Fields: Reader Responses

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Thursday’s announcement of an effort to attract faculty in high-demand fields who would have to take a pay cut to move into science was an attempt to see if anyone had found a sustainable workaround.

Answer: barely.

A few responded, with some benefit, that the answer was simply to pay them more. Of course, if that was an option, we would have done it years ago. The Harvards of the world can throw money at people; community colleges generally cannot.

Some answered with variations on “sponsoring their labs.” Again, this might make sense in the context of a research university, but it’s really not the community college model. And we don’t necessarily need people at the forefront of hot fields; we need people who can teach the first couple of years in the hot field before sending the student off to the places where the research is actually being done.

The most thoughtful response I received was this:

“Several approaches that can be used when there are limitations on salary levels, either from unions or from the structure/culture/financial reality of the institution: 1. Allow and promote those faculty in high-demand fields (e.g., accounting, finance , patient care, data science/ security) spend time providing consulting services. Local experts looking for more of your students will likely understand and can help make this happen. 2. Summer support related to translational research that increases the potential for IP generation, which can generate additional funds for both the individual faculty member and the school. 3. Using shared revenues (the marginal discretionary surplus to be shared with faculty, the department, and the entire institution) as an incentive for those faculty to help create new online programs in high-demand areas that can be adopted according to your a unique definition of scale. Shared benefits are an often forgotten part of true and valuable shared governance.”

Point two doesn’t really work here, and point three needs to be translated. (For “discretionary marginal surplus”, substitute “grant funding”.) But the first point may be relevant. To the extent that local employers require students with a certain skill set, it may be worth it for those employers to put their money into the game, whether it’s in the form of hours or institutional funding. We already do this with local hospitals: they provide clinical experience for our students because they need our graduates. A similar model can be applied, say, in IT.

The model certainly needs tweaking. Although they prefer a BSN degree, hospitals and other sites typically hire ADN nurses and give them time to complete their BSN while they work. In fields such as cyber security, employment may be more fragmented among different employers, and employers may require a bachelor’s degree or higher before they start working. The closer the connection between college and work, the easier it is to ask for help. If the undergraduate (or graduate) years have to come first, that’s a harder sell. But the basic idea makes sense: if employers are serious about getting graduates in these fields, they need to be willing to take steps to make it happen.

In many ways this is already happening. Community colleges have had professional partnerships for decades. Each Perkins program, for example, has an industry advisory board made up of local people from the relevant industry. They help ensure that programs remain relevant and up-to-date as technology and practices evolve. For that matter, apprenticeships are industry partnerships at their highest level. They tend to be concentrated in occupations that have been around for a long time, such as plumbing and HVAC. Cybersecurity is not like that, at least for now.

If anyone has a great idea, please don’t feel like you missed the deadline – I’d love to see it! Judging by the responses of other college students, this problem is widespread; any realistic and sustainable solutions are welcome.

Program Note: We will be heading to UMD Parent Orientation early next week to find out what our new Terp will be doing. The blog will be back later this week.

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