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Want to go far in today’s job market? Community college is the place to start.

Want to go far in today’s job market? Community college is the place to start.

Today, the US economy runs on knowledge. That’s borne out by a telling statistic: The number of workers in occupations requiring average to above-average education, training and experience increased from 49 million in 1980 to 83 million in 2015, or a 68-percent increase.

Does this mean that job seekers without a four-year college degree are locked out? Not by a long shot. Community colleges, such as the ones we support in our service area, offer curricula that prepare students to enter numerous professions with the skills they need to get started.

For example, there is a crying need in Connecticut for workers with up-to-date manufacturing skills. Now, take a tour of course catalogs at our partners, such as Tunxis Community College or Middlesex Community College. Manufacturing studies abound. With just two years of coursework (at a far more modest cost than a four-year college) students can transform themselves into solid job candidates.

Even for existing workers, community colleges offer plenty of options, too. And just in time, as a recent Pew Research/Markle Foundation study reveals that vast majority of U.S. workers say that new skills and training may hold the key to their future job success. In fact, more than 54 percent expect this will be a constant in their careers. Coursework and certificate programs offered by community colleges offer workers the ability to brush up (on a flexible schedule) and return to the job fully up to speed.

How about those just preparing the join the workforce? Sixty-one percent of those ages 18 to 29 believe keeping pace with the latest knowledge will be essential. This matches well with employment data that shows job categories with the highest growth tend to require higher social skills, analytical savvy and technical prowess.

Now let’s look at America’s highest paying knowledge-economy jobs. Community colleges are spot on, with two-year programs in professions such as engineering, nursing, computer science, math, and manufacturing. Think community colleges don’t have what it takes to support their STEM students? Check out Naugatuck Valley Community College’s new technology hall, which offers the latest in technology and advanced labs.

So, give your local community college a look. They provide an economical, flexible way to join and keep up with a knowledge-based economy.