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ERIC Number: EJ842407
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May-8
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
As the Auto Industry Shrinks, a Community College Retools
Fischer, Karin
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n35 pA1 May 2009
In 1954, Chrysler introduced its "newest, smoothest" ride, the Dodge Royal sedan, which rolled off the assembly line with a glossy two-tone paint job and state-of-the-art V-8 engine. That same year, just northeast of Detroit, Macomb Community College opened its doors, with a mission to prepare the vehicle designers, auto-parts makers, and mechanics who kept Motor City running. Today the American auto industry has stalled. Only an infusion of federal bailout funds has, thus far, saved two of the Big Three automakers. Motor-vehicle-manufacturing jobs in Michigan, long a backbone of the state's economy, plunged 30 percent in the last year alone. Community colleges across the country are being asked to educate more students with less money, but the sudden collapse of the carmaking sector has compounded the stresses of the current economic slump on Macomb. While Macomb is a comprehensive college, with a variety of degrees and certificates, it has been, in essence, Chrysler's community college, building a strength in automotives that is "narrow and deep." Now the college must reinvent itself somewhat, retooling its automotive expertise to educate students in fields where jobs are more plentiful, like advanced manufacturing, automated systems, and even graphic design. Macomb is linking with universities to offer bachelor's degrees as well as setting up several not-for-credit vocational programs to move workers into positions, such as nursing-home aide and administrative assistant, that promise a paycheck, albeit not a generous one. Still, with unemployment rates in Detroit and its suburbs at 14 percent, the highest of any major metropolitan area, Macomb faces the prospect of preparing a work force for whom there is no work. For one, Macomb officials are gambling on the emergence of a refashioned, greener car industry, and they are trying to encourage such a shift by working to be a hub for training in electric and hybrid fuel-cell technology. Economic-development experts say community colleges can be a pivotal partner in efforts to "recast" a local economy when a once-dominant employer falters. They have the ability to help move a region in a different direction.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Michigan