Innovation and Reinvention on Display at America’s Community Colleges

by Secretary Hilda Solis on October 18, 2012 · 5 comments

Secretary Solis and Student

Secretary Hilda Solis talks with Mike Schramm, a student at Monroe Community College's Applied Technologies Center in Rochester, NY during her visit on September 24, 2012.

Last month, I announced $500 million in new grants to colleges around the country through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training program. Since then, I’ve visited 16 community colleges in 13 states; from St. Petersburg to Seattle, Connecticut to California, Vermont to Arizona, and just about everywhere in between.  And I have to be honest with you… it has been good for the soul.

These grants are helping to expand innovative local, regional, and national partnerships. And let me tell you, the innovation currently on display at these community colleges is nothing short of amazing. I’ve never met a more determined, driven group of Americans than the students I’ve met over the last month.

Secretary Solis and Roane State Community College nursing students

Secretary Solis checks in with nursing students at Roane State Community College students during her Oct. 3rd visit to the Tennessee school.

I met bright-eyed, 18-year-olds fresh out of high school. They’re too young to remember a day when going to class involved things like chalkboards and hand-written notes. They’re working in radiology labs outside Seattle learning to upload X-rays into a patient’s electronic medical files, and in hybrid car labs learning how to repair the engines that power the cars of the future.

I met soldiers returning from the battlefield in the Middle East, who are making the often too difficult transition back to civilian life. They protected us from enemies abroad and are now learning to protect the integrity of turbine generators at sensitive facilities run by the Tennessee Valley Authority. It made me feel secure knowing that these heroes continue to watch over us here at home.

Secretary Solis with students at East Los Angeles College

Secretary Solis, Farley Herzek, interim president of East Los Angeles College, and Daniel LaVista, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, speak with students in a logistics class during the Sectretary's visit to the college on Oct. 15, 2012.

I met students from all walks of life who are working, raising kids and going to school because they want more. They want more responsibility on the job, more money in the bank, more stability in their career, and more opportunities to create a better future for their families.

I met unemployed folks, who had lost their jobs when their plant closed or their position moved overseas. They weren’t dwelling on the past, they were looking to the future. They were hard at work in a robotics classroom, an optics lab, or an advanced materials  shop learning skills they couldn’t have imagined when they took that first factory job 20 years ago.

They were reinventing themselves.

Secretary Solis with a student at Kansas City Kansas Community College

Phil McGill, a student at Kansas City Kansas Community College's Technical Education Center talks with Secretary Solis about his training.

And they had real confidence that the education they were getting was going to take them to a better place. That’s what is unique about today’s community colleges. The programs we’re funding are a direct response to unmet workforce needs in the local community. So students aren’t just getting a certificate, a degree and a sense of accomplishment when they graduate; they’re getting the skills they need to excel in jobs with local employers from day one.

In the cities I visited–and in hundreds more across the country–we’re seeing what happens when we make smart investments in community colleges to bring together employers, educators, workforce professionals, industry experts and non-profit groups to train our modern workforce. These investments pay off.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gail Fletcher October 20, 2012 at 8:21 am

The ability to audit credit classes at no charge [yes, you read that right] at a NY State community college because I’m over 60 means I’m studying Spanish again to become fluent, and will be taking web courses next semester to help launch a website for a start-up business. I’ll need to work for many more years before I retire and this is the only way I can afford to do it!

2 Syed A Shah October 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I have been long time jobless, I am trying get some Assistance Community College Career Training program from local workforce office. But they can help. Always say, They don’t have budget. I was some kind grant, then I can go back school and complete some short courses.

3 George Swan III October 22, 2012 at 11:39 am

Thank you for your support of America’s community colleges!

4 Joydeep November 4, 2012 at 9:18 am

Great work, thanks to Hilda Solis for excellent contribution in motivating the young minds. I truly feel motivation can go a long way in promoting innovation.

5 Travel Physical Therapy Staffing Agency January 4, 2013 at 1:03 am

Nice article Hilda. I personally work with a lot of young adults who are just getting out of college. I have a traveling physical therapy staffing agency that works with fresh college graduates, so I deal with young people all of the time. Almost all of them got through college because of grants, which is awesome. Keep up the good work. It helps my business yes, but more importantly, it gives young people an opportunity that they otherwise wouldn’t get.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: