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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. colleges aren't producing enough graduates with the skills companies need. So corporations are partnering with community colleges and alternative credentialing programs to build worker pipelines.

Driving the news: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday that a cloud computing degree program developed with Amazon Web Services will be expanded to colleges statewide in Virginia, where the company has major data center operations.

The big picture: Higher education institutions are under increasing pressure to prove the market value of degrees and credentials — immediately and in the long-term.

  • Steven Partridge, Northern Virginia Community College's vice president for strategic partnerships and workforce innovation, says they and other institutions are trying to create "a spigot" of workers tuned to local markets.

What's happening: Tech companies in particular are helping design curriculums to ensure students graduate with the exact skills they need to walk directly into jobs.

  • In Phoenix, 10 community colleges are working with Intel, Boeing, Apple and Cisco to teach specific skills so students can immediately work in emerging fields such as autonomous driving and blockchain-related businesses.
  • IBM has partnered with 19 community colleges to review curriculums, provide in-class expertise and apprenticeships to prepare students for "new collar" jobs in areas like cloud computing, cybersecurity and mainframes. It also created "P-TECH," a 6-year program that offers a high school diploma and associates degree, in 200 schools.
  • Siemens is adding about a dozen new schools each year to its "mechatronics" certification programs to teach students skills needed for advanced manufacturing.
  • Facebook, Tableau and others are creating co-branded certificates with community colleges through startup Pathstream.
"It's not just about the technical aspects. People need the soft skills, like how to collaborate, work on teams to solve a problem and adapt to change. These are things community colleges are well equipped to do."
— Diane Gherson, IBM chief human resources officer

Alternative programs like those offered through coding bootcamp Lambda School are built around the skills Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others say they are seeking in employees.

  • Lambda School CEO Austen Allred says their programs can keep pace with technological changes in ways traditional higher education institutions can't.

By the numbers: There are 7.2 million open jobs in the U.S. and 6 million unemployed Americans, per the Labor Department.

  • The U.S. has more than 700,000 open technology jobs, but universities are producing only about one-tenth that number of computer science graduates.
  • 67% of the adult population does not have a bachelor's degree.
  • "We’re not doing a good job helping people understand what jobs are out there and what skills they need for that job," said Accenture North America CEO Jimmy Etheredge.

Yes, but: A bachelor's degree is still the gold standard for economic mobility today.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that there are 200, not 20, "P-TECH," programs that offer a high school diploma and associates degree.

Go deeper

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

2 hours ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).