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Blog: (Work in Progress) - Report from the Road: Community Colleges Leveraging Partnerships for Economic Growth

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If you have had the chance to step onto a community college campus recently, you know the special role they are playing in rebuilding the American economy. Over the last three years, this administration has made unprecedented investments in the community college system through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training − or TAACCCT − grant program. These grants encourage schools across the country to work with each other, with the workforce system and with employers to create cutting edge training programs that prepare workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

At Cleveland Community College in Shelby, N.C., Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Perez listen in as Kenneth Dover (second from right) talks about his experience making the transition from the Marines to a career in "mission critical" IT operations.
No matter the industry, partnership is the key to the program's success. In fact, it's a prerequisite for consideration for a TAACCCT award. That means education, labor, business and community leaders all coming together to meet the real-world challenges of a complex global economy. The idea is to ensure that community college curricula are aligned with industry's needs, so adult learners are obtaining exactly the certifications and know-how that local businesses require their workers to have.

As a community college educator and a former state official with longstanding community college relationships, the two of us understand the vital role these institutions play in workforce development. We've seen first-hand what community colleges do to save lives. So last week we hit the road together to visit two of the newest grantees and meet some of the people helping transform these institutions of higher learning into engines of economic growth − and transforming lives each step of the way.

In Shelby, N.C., Cleveland Community College is leading a consortium awarded $23 million to help ensure that companies around the country and around the world are able to stay up and running day or night thanks to workers trained in what are known as "mission critical" operations. When emergencies like a power outage or a computer virus or a machinery malfunction happen, these workers know what it takes to solve the problem quickly.

Cleveland Community College faculty member Mitchell Sepaugh leads Dr. Biden and Secretary Perez through the school's state-of-the-art engineering lab, which allows students to get hands-on training in the latest remote access and automation technology.

At the college we met Kenneth Dover, a former marine and current student who is also a full-time employee at one of the fastest-growing local companies. TAACCCT is going to help more people like Kenneth get the marketable skills that lead to good, middle-class jobs. But the impact doesn't stop there. Because of the strong partnerships with local employers, these grants also strengthen the overall economy, providing businesses with the pipeline of talented workers they need to compete, prosper and grow.

With Kenneth's story still fresh on our minds we traveled south to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. There, Broward College is leading a consortium of a dozen colleges − from Newark, N.J., to Long Beach, Calif. − that was awarded $24.5 million to focus on another essential component to effective business operations in just about any industry: supply chain management.

Dr. Biden takes a turn at the helm of one of Broward College's flight simulators.
At Broward College's Aviation Institute, we heard from students and employers who are at the leading edge of this growing field. Whether it was the mechanics working on the flight line, or the faculty members training new prospective pilots, it was great to see everyone understand the intersection of transportation and business, and the importance of managing a complex supply chain in real time.

At Broward College's Aviation Institute, Dr. Jill Biden - a community college professor herself - talk about the important role that community colleges are playing in helping to shape the American workforce.
The TAACCCT program is a win for everyone. It strengthens the regional economy. It helps businesses stay on the competitive cutting edge in a complex global economy. And for workers, it paves a career pathway and serves as a springboard into the middle class.

All of the students we met have a bright future ahead of them. We're proud to be a part of the team making an investment in their future, and we're proud of the role that community colleges are playing in making it all happen.


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