Ka‘ana Mana‘o: College strives to match programs to job requirements

The unemployment rate in Hawaii is low compared to most states, and in Maui County dropped to 4.8 percent in April, according to the state Department of Labor & Industrial Relations. But is this the entire employment picture?

Economist Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, points to another figure, the U-6 rate, to get a clearer view. The U-6 rate includes people who are forced to work part-time because they can’t find full-time work, as well as people who have given up looking for jobs. In Hawaii, that figure is 13.7 percent.

For many, the journey to full-time, meaningful employment began by enrolling at the University of Hawaii Maui College. The college works closely with local businesses and industries to ensure that academic programs match employment requirements. Now, 318 business partners serve on 25 academic advisory committees to help design the curricula. Students also have access to the college’s CareerLink program, which offers career shadowing, internship opportunities and job placement services for a successful transition from graduation to employment with Maui County businesses.

Kimberley “Kehau” Newhouse is a Maui College graduate who works as a human resources specialist for Maui County. Upon graduating from King Kekaulike High School, she enrolled at the college and after a year was selected to be a Disney World intern. After her experience with Disney, she returned to Maui to finish college, eventually discovering a passion for business and helping other people.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in, but the college connected me to an internship at the County of Maui Department of Personnel Services, and it just clicked,” she said. “I began to see how my strengths in communication, organization and problem-solving could lead to a career I’d enjoy.”

After receiving her associate’s degree from the college, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the Shidler College of Business, and then in 2006 took a position in the college’s CareerLink program to help other students find their career path. At the same time, she began her master’s degree in human resources at UH-Manoa through the UH Center, Maui, which offers degree programs through distance learning.

“It was a challenge, but the support I received from the college’s counselors, staff and my family helped me reach my academic and career goals,” she said. “What makes me happy now is being a support person to others. Human resources is a very rewarding career, and I am excited for what the future holds.”

After graduating from Maui High School, Jessica Gleason pursued her associate’s degree in liberal arts at Maui College, then her bachelor’s degree from UH-Hilo through the UH Center, Maui, all while working part-time. With her bachelor’s degree in hand, she was able to work full-time at the Wailuku Public Library under the mentorship of professional librarians, while simultaneously pursuing her master’s degree in library and information science from UH-Manoa, again through the UH Center. Now, she’s the Kihei Public Library branch manager.

“Getting my higher education was critical to advancing my career,” Gleason said. “I’d started at the library in a clerical position and wouldn’t have been eligible for my promotion to a professional librarian without my degrees. I feel fortunate that I was able to work and pursue my associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees right here in Maui County. A college degree, a career – it’s achievable without leaving the island.”

In addition to career fulfillment, college degree holders typically earn more than those with a high school diploma. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over an adult’s working life, high school graduates earn an average of $1.2 million; associate’s degree holders earn about $1.6 million, earning $400,000 more.

A new college program, “Degree-in-Three” is underway. It allows students to complete their associate’s degree in liberal arts in three years, taking evening and online/cable classes throughout the fall, spring and summer semesters.

For more information, contact Linda Fujitani via email at lkfujita@hawaii.edu or call 984-3226.

* Clyde Sakamoto is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o, which means “sharing thoughts,” is scheduled to appear on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.