By Mary Ellen Flannery
Higher education leads to jobs for Americans and economic strength for their nation—that’s something President Obama has said countless times. In September, his administration echoed those words with action: A whopping $474.5 million to pay for innovative job skills programs at community colleges across the country.
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At Macomb Community College in Michigan—where unemployment still lingers at 9 percent—a $24.9 million Department of Labor grant will support faculty’s efforts to train local workers, especially veterans and unemployed adults, for much-needed jobs in computer numerical control machining, welding and fabrication, multi-skilled technician and production operations.
“Community colleges are vital to connecting education, training and students to workplace needs,” Macomb president James Jacobs told the Macomb Daily News. “This $24.9 million DOL grant is an important step forward for Michigan community colleges and employers in leveraging our historical strength in making things while harnessing the promise of advanced manufacturing for the economic benefit of our residents, businesses and communities.”
The four-year grants also include: $13 million to Broward (Florida) College for programs to train workers in supply-chain management; $2.7 million to Butler College in Kansas to train veterans and long-time unemployed people for certificates in information technology; $6.4 million to Mount Wachusett Community College in Massachusetts for programs in mechatronics, a design process that includes mechanical and computer engineering; $4.7 million to Century College in Minnesota to provide workers with industry-recognized credentials around the delivery of orthotics and prosthetics; and $2.7 million to Bellingham Technical College in Washington State for a new associate degree program in nursing.
In each place, community colleges are partnering with local employers and other community partners to make sure students are learning the kind of demand-driven skills that lead directly to jobs. “These investments in demand-driven skills training bring together education, labor, business and community leaders to meet the real-world needs of the changing global marketplace. These partnerships strengthen not only the American workforce, but the American economy as well,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.
The grant initiative also supports Obama’s broader goals of ensuring that every American has at least one year of postsecondary education, and that the U.S. has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
At Macomb, the grant will be shared with a consortium of seven other Michigan community colleges. Macomb is the lead—and its direct share is about $10 million. With that money, the colleges will be able to upgrade their equipment, which includes robotic labs and computer training facilities, to meet the current standards of the workplace. In all, about 2,800 people will get training.