Tag Archives: TAACCCT

Building connections

AzTech 2

More than 100 business and education leaders attended the Arizona Technology Council’s After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center.

More than 100 business and education leaders attended the Arizona Technology Council’s After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center.

At the Arizona Technology Council’s recent After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center, more than 100 local business leaders met to strengthen connections to PCC in service to a common goal: building a more robust economy.

The Arizona Technology Council is a trade association promoting growth in aeronautics, energy, particularly solar, healthcare, and technology. My welcome message noted that PCC can supply qualified people to work in these sectors by aligning our programs with transfer pathways, industry needs and nationally recognized credentials.

Several of our key programs were well-represented at the event, including Aviation Technology, which in January was honored to host the first-ever visit to PCC by a Cabinet secretary, when Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez praised PCC for implementation of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants.

A TAACCCT grant supports the Get Into Energy program, a joint venture that includes PCC and Tucson Electric Power and which awards students an Electrical Utility Technology certificate. Students who complete the program are eligible to apply to internships at TEP and may pursue an associate in applied science degree.

Another TAACCCT grant will create a degree pathway in industrial technology with certificates in instrumentation, industrial maintenance, industrial mechanics and mechatronics, in addition to certificates in basic and advanced industrial welding.

We are working toward National Institute for Metalworking Skills accreditation and recently graduated nine students, our first high school cohort to complete the Machine Tool Technology certificate in collaboration with Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partnership. And we just dedicated an art/design space where students will learn to write software for 3D printers.

I want to thank Arizona Technology Council Southern Arizona Regional Vice President Alex Rodriguez, ATC president Steven G. Zylstra, Interim Vice Chancellor for Technology Cindy Dooling, and the always-indispensable team at the Aviation Technology Center for a great event.

Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  Through our ever-stronger connection to employers, PCC can supply students with the education to successfully compete in the global workplace of the future.

Secretary of Labor visits PCC, Tucson

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Pima Community College was honored to host a visit Jan. 29 by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Secretary Perez joined me, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, PCC Board Chair Sylvia Lee and other PCC leaders on a tour of our Aviation Technology Center (ATC). Secretary Perez also attended an event at our Downtown Campus regarding health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.

During the visit to the ATC, Secretary Perez learned about initiatives PCC is undertaking through Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT), which is administered by the Labor Department. In September 2014, PCC received a $2,499,997 grant under the fourth round of TAACCCT, which enables community colleges to work with industry to develop training and education programs that will lead to high skill-high paying jobs. As part of the grant, PCC is partnering with business to develop a degree pathway in Industrial Technology that includes four short-term certificates. PCC also is adding short-term options to existing degree programs in Welding and Aviation.

At ATC, Secretary Perez attended a roundtable discussion with a cross-section of government, education, industry and workforce leaders. The takeaway from the meeting was clear: Community stakeholders need to coordinate their efforts to advance Career and Technical Education (CTE) as a ticket to the middle class, and that investments such as those made through TAACCCT make a difference. Mayor Rothschild noted that women, minorities and military veterans are among the populations that could make great use of this valuable education.

Superintendent Sanchez emphasized that the focus in education has been weighted toward making students college-ready over making them career-ready. The value of CTE is borne out by data. As the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce has discovered,

43 percent of young workers with licenses and certificates earn more than those with an associate degree, 27 percent of young workers with licenses and certificates earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree, and 31 percent of young workers with associate degrees earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

I pointed out the need for a state and federal governmental framework that offers flexibility in student aid and allows educators to offer industry-driven programs that keep up with oft-dizzying pace of technological change.

Secretary Perez and the group did hear from a veteran, Ashley Rodriguez, who served as a Marine in Iraq before graduating from the Aviation Technology program and getting a job with Bombardier in Tucson. Rodriguez forthrightly described the roadblocks she had to overcome to go from the military to PCC and her new career. Secretary Perez summed up what we at PCC know about Ashley – “You’ve got game,” the secretary said – and said he would seek to find ways to straighten the pathway to civilian training that veterans must often travel.

Many employees made Secretary Perez’s visit to the ATC a success. Tom Hinman, Advanced Program Manager at the ATC, led an informative tour that included stops at the center’s two 727s. [PCC is one of the few U.S. programs with hands-on training on commercial and regional jets.] Tom’s team did a first-rate job with the logistics of a multifaceted event. Joanne Kingman, Program Manager in Workforce and Business Development, clearly explained the grant, sharing our best practices and highlighting our partnerships with industry.

Dr. Morgan Phillips, who as president of the Desert Vista Campus is responsible for the ATC, moderated the invigorating discussion. Government Relations Liaison Michael Peel reached out and brought together the community leaders for the valuable sit-down.

Secretary Perez has said that community colleges are the “secret sauce” of workforce development. I believe his visit confirmed that PCC’s wise use of the federal government’s investment in Career and Technical Education is improving the lives of individuals and contributing to economic development, and that the recipe for continued success demands that all stakeholders in the community continue to work together.

Good news follows good deeds

Pima Community College and nearly 270 other community colleges across the nation received some very good news out of Washington on Monday. We are the winners of $450 million in federal grant money aimed at providing workers with the skills they need to get ahead.

In our case, PCC has been awarded $2.5 million to train workers for careers in aviation, mining and manufacturing. As I noted in the news release that went out yesterday, the award is recognition of our potential to develop Southern Arizona’s 21st century economy.

It is significant that this was a competitive grant. Thanks to the hard work of many, PCC has demonstrated that we can compete on a national level for critically important resources. As Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez put it in an email to grant recipients, PCC now is part of “a community of forward-thinking and impassioned education professionals who are leading a movement to build opportunity and strengthen the skilled workforce we need for the future.”

Just as important, the job-training funds headed our way are intended to foster closer partnerships between community colleges and employers looking for skilled employees. Working in a more collaborative manner with business and industry is essential for PCC and all community colleges if we want to stay relevant in a rapidly changing economy. This grant will help us achieve that goal.

In a blog post published after the grant announcement, Secretary Perez referred to community colleges as “the secret sauce of workforce development, empowering communities, strengthening businesses and invigorating local economies.” As far as I’m concerned, he hit the nail right on the head.

Building better pathways to in-demand careers

The reinvigorated push for better job training announced this week by the White House is important for numerous reasons. As PCC’s chancellor, what struck me was the critical role community colleges are again being called upon to play in readying our workforce for the in-demand jobs of the 21st century.

One of the key themes of the report, developed by a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden, was the need for a systemic, connected approach by stakeholders. “Many businesses, community colleges, and state and local training programs … have found ways to successfully prepare Americans for these jobs. We must expand on these successful efforts and ensure that our entire system is learning from them.”

Clearly, PCC is well situated to make a critical difference in clearing the path to jobs that lead to the growth of a thriving middle class. Our connections to the Workforce Investment Board, Pima County One Stop and JobPath have proven to be extremely beneficial. For example, by allying ourselves with One Stop to implement the Health Professions Opportunity Grant, we have been able to help hundreds formerly jobless men and women find careers in the fast-growing healthcare sector.

The report emphasizes the need to align training and curricula with employer needs and expectations. PCC is a member of the National Coalition of Certification Centers, and I can vouch for the importance of industry-driven credentials that validate the skills and knowledge we have imparted to our students.

The signing of the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is another generally positive step for workforce training. In addition to streamlining federal programs, this bipartisan legislation sets standards for measurements of effectiveness. The initiative aligns with the College’s goal of improving assessment through development of metrics regarding tangible outcomes to the extent that our access to data allows.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the College should aggressively pursue resources that advance job training efforts. Our participation in the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program (TAACCCT) has been extremely successful, and is an example that should be replicated. As part of a consortium of the state’s community colleges, PCC prepares students for skilled, high-wage jobs in the energy industry. This program is geared to helping military veterans and other adult learners. Working in partnership the Tucson Electric Power Co. we have developed an Electrical Utility Technology certificate.

Our participation in an Arizona Commerce Authority-facilitated sector partnerships initiative also holds great potential. In sector partnerships, employers work with governments, educators, labor, economic development groups and community organizations on a holistic approach to growth. We can do our part by providing an education pipeline producing qualified workers such industries as aerospace, renewable energy and optics.

The College knows what is effective in helping people find meaningful work. Now we need to get to work. I am confident that by taking advantage of our improved, inclusive strategic planning structure, and with the leadership provided by our new Community Campus President, Dr. Lorraine Morales, we can effectively coordinate with our partners for the betterment of the community. PCC can, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, set our students on an upward trajectory for life.

Testifying before a Congressional panel

Yesterday I had the honor of testifying in Phoenix before a hearing of the Education & Workforce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.  The topic was “Reviving Our Economy: Supporting a 21st Century Workforce.”

I was one of eight Arizona business, government and higher education leaders, including University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart and Arizona State University President Michael Crow, called upon to testify before the panel, which was chaired by Rep. John Kline of Minnesota and included Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Matt Salmon of Arizona.

Here is my testimony:

Chairman Kline, Representative Grijalva, Representative Salmon, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk on behalf of Pima Community College. Along with nine other community college districts in Arizona and the more than 1,100 community colleges in the United States, we work every day to help students achieve their academic and career goals.

Today I want to talk about the important role that federal investment in education plays in helping PCC prepare students for jobs and careers in the 21st century. Tucson, PCC’s home, is the sixth-poorest of its size in the U.S. Increasing our competitiveness in an unforgiving economy is a top priority. But because of globalization and technological advances, we know we’re up against firms from across the U.S. around the world.

The approximately $46 million investment that the federal government makes in PCC helps us achieve multiple goals, particularly improving student retention, engaging underserved communities, and meeting the needs of area business and industry.

Recently, PCC was awarded two grants to help adult learners transition into the workforce. Each grant contains an element that requires us to engage the private sector. In 2010, Pima secured a five-year grant to provide education and services to low-income individuals so that they could enter the fast-growing healthcare sector in a variety of professions, including health information technicians, licensed practical nurses, and community health advisors. PCC has aligned with a key partner, Pima County One Stop, which provides Workforce Investment Act-funded services to nearly 4,000 job-seekers. More than 1,000 people have enrolled in the HPOG program to date, with 210 of these formerly jobless men and women finding employment in the healthcare industry at an average wage of $11.84 an hour.

Similarly, the first three years of our participation in the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program, better known as TAACCCT, has been extremely successful. As part of a community college consortium in Arizona, PCC prepares students for skilled, high-wage jobs in the energy industry. This program is geared to helping military veterans and other adult learners. Working in partnership with the local utility, the Tucson Electric Power Company, we have developed an Electrical Utility Technology certificate, and will be adding an associate’s degree concentration as well. Tucson Electric Power or its subsidiaries have hired 63 percent of the 50 students taking part in the program. We are working with Southwest Gas Corporation to develop a similar program in the gas industry.

Regarding student retention, many PCC students are of extremely modest means who often are the first in the family to attend college. PCC strives to keep its tuition low, but the reality is these students cannot afford to attend college without federal financial aid, including Pell Grants.

The number of PCC student receiving Pell Grants has declined from more than 16,000 in 2011 to about 10,000 this year. PCC is joining with the American Association of Community Colleges in asking that Congress reinstate the Year-Round Pell Grant, which will increase student success in summer classes, as well as the Ability to Benefit requirement, and the 18-semester cap on eligibility. The average age of a PCC student is 27; many are balancing work and family obligations while attending school part-time. Making these changes in Pell eligibility will help our students as they piece together the credits they need to reach their educational goal.

Regarding engaging underserved populations, Tucson is home to about 80,000 to 100,000 adults who lack a high school credential. These men and women will face hard lives, as you know, marked by chronic unemployment and an ongoing need for various types of government assistance I’m proud to say that PCC Adult Education, the second-largest provider of Adult Education services in the state, has helped Arizona achieve a No. 2 national ranking in the success of Adult Education students. PCC Adult Ed serves more than 6,100 students a year. The high school equivalencies these women and men earn give them a chance to climb the economic ladder. Also, PCC is developing new contextualized learning initiatives that integrate Adult Basic Education with occupational skills training, so that the student is put on the fast track to a postsecondary credential.

 Pima Community College is committed to aligning its curriculum and services with the needs of industry to keep the talent pipeline filled with workers who have the skills business needs now and in the future. Each of the College’s more than 120 occupational programs is assisted by an advisory committee composed of representatives of from local business who can provide us with real-time, ground-level insights regarding industry needs and emerging trends. These insights result in real change in our programs. For example, we are working with a consortium of more than three dozen area manufacturers to alter our Machine Tool Technology curriculum so it meets National Institute for Metalworking Skills certification standards, and aligns with high school Joint Technical Education District curriculum. Also we are working to establish a Business Intelligence Competency Center that will give us the ability to sift through mounds of data to recognize patterns, detect trends and unearth opportunities. A robust Business Intelligence tool would allow Pima to better align its resources with other entities in the community to further economic development of the region.

I would like to conclude with the words from Andy Grove, the founder of the computer chip maker Intel, who coined the phrase “strategic inflection point” to describe a time of profound change, risk and opportunity. The United States is at a strategic inflection point as it seeks to retool its economy for the 21st century. Education remains a key element in achieving that goal. The federal government’s investment in PCC helps us assist students as they seek to gain the education they need for the middle-skill jobs that will form the core of our economic recovery. Maintaining federal funding levels to federal student aid programs, to Adult Education and Literacy programs, and to workforce development programs is crucial for Pima Community College to keep the talent pipeline filled with motivated, capable employees. The return on the federal government’s continued investment in the next generation of workers has been and will continue to be tangible. For individuals, it results in entry into the middle class. For our nation, it provides the backbone of stable, prosperous communities and gives meaning to the words, “The American Dream.”