- Accreditation: We have submitted a Notice Report to the Higher Learning Commission, a key step in regaining the fullest measure of confidence from our accreditor.
- Fiscal stewardship: I put into perspective PCC’s budget, property tax rates, and tuition for 2016-17.
- Student success: We are making strides in improving and expanding pathways for students at the beginning of their education journey.
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.
Something very nice happened at last night’s Governing Board meeting. An important member of the business community came forward to publicly praise PCC.
Ed Stolmaker, the president and CEO of the Marana Chamber of Commerce, expressed his support for “the vision and mission” of the College because of the role we play in training our region’s workforce.
“Our business community needs a skilled workforce that is able to meet and exceed the changing demands of today’s employers,” he said. “Creating jobs and growing our local economy are key to our success.”
Well put, Ed. Thank you.
This won’t come as a surprise to anyone but it needs to be stated: I am very proud of the new instructional building on our Northwest Campus.
The gorgeous addition to PCC’s newest campus was dedicated Thursday at a ceremony attended by about 100 business and community leaders, as well as PCC students, employees and Board members. The brief ribbon-cutting ceremony marked a significant milestone for the Campus and the entire College.
The building is a true gem. Designed by the Tucson firm of Burns Wald-Hopkins Shambach Architects, it features flexible learning spaces that can be configured to meet individual classroom needs. It has expanded space for Northwest’s Hotel and Restaurant Management and Clinical Research Coordinator programs. The dedicated lab spaces for mathematics and the sciences are truly state-of-the-art.
The building will strengthen and build on our ties to our K-12 partners, to our community partners, to our university partners, and to our business and industry partners. Its classrooms will serve the entire community as PCC grows its high-need Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields to support southern Arizona’s workforce.
As Ed Stolmaker, president/CEO of the Marana Chamber of Commerce, said during the ceremony, a qualified STEM workforce is essential to the prosperity of our region. That observation was echoed by Dave Perry, president/CEO of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce. Dave remarked that the founders of two of the area’s top bioscience companies got their starts in academia. Dave put it aptly: Higher education “is the place where the future begins.”
And Juan Ciscomani of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce spoke for many in noting that as a 2003 PCC alumnus and the first in his family to graduate from college, “Pima gave a lot to me.”
What is true for Juan is true for many who attend PCC. I noted at the ceremony that our Northwest Campus is a favorite location for adult learners preparing for their high school equivalency exams. We are striving to make all of PCC a place where everyone, regardless of where they start, can progress on their education journey. The Northwest building is our newest center for students to achieve their goals. It will help positions PCC to our community well into the 21st century.
As a finalist for chancellor of PCC this spring, I read extensively about Tucson to learn more about the community the College serves. Among the data I came across, one statistic stood out.
Tucson is the sixth-poorest metropolitan area in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 1 in 5 Tucsonans living below the poverty line in 2011. In the aggregate, poverty correlates to high unemployment, anemic economic growth, poor academic achievement and low-paying jobs. Individually, it invariably amounts to the dispiriting sense that the American Dream is receding ever further from reach.
The statistic is, of course, sobering. But it is heartening that in the six weeks I have been Chancellor, I’ve talked to a wide variety of people – decision-makers in business, education, government, as well as leaders of civic and faith-based organizations, and students and others just trying to make ends meet – and not one has lost hope. No one accepts that decline is our destiny.
As a first step in fighting back, one must comprehensively identify a problem, and I want to congratulate Tucson’s daily newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, for shining a light on the issue. The Star this week is publishing an in-depth series on poverty in Tucson — its causes, human impact and solutions. And I am pleased that the Star, in chronicling one of many solutions to this multifaceted problem, has spotlighted the effectiveness of the Pathways to Healthcare program, a partnership between PCC and the county’s OneStop Career Center, in breaking the cycle of poverty.
Pathways to Healthcare is funded through an $18.5 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant offering financial assistance for low-income people to train in high-demand health professions. Most of the training is offered through PCC’s Center for Training and Development.
As of August 1, 950 students had signed up for Pathways assistance. Pathways’ goal is to enroll a total of 1,750 to 2,000 students over the five-year life of the grant.
As of August 1, 378 of the 950 Pathways participants had completed training in fields that range from home health aides and medical billers to paramedics and nursing assistants. A total of 310 Pathways participants have gotten jobs. Now for the real bottom line: The average entry-level hourly wage for participants employed in the healthcare sector is $12.05. Compare that to Arizona’s minimum hourly wage of $7.80.
Pathways to Healthcare is but one attempt by PCC to improve the future economy of our community through meaningful employment. I will write about others in the days to come. It is appropriate that a public conversation is taking shape now on this critical issue. Fifty years ago this month, hundreds of thousands of Americans converged on Washington, D.C., to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King knew that gaining political rights without economic opportunity was a half-victory. In fact, the event was called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” In 1963, the link between the two was clear. It remains so today.
The need for well trained and qualified employees to power our 21st-century economy is one of the most pressing challenges facing our nation as we emerge from the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. Community colleges are central to addressing this burgeoning skills gap, but we can’t do it alone.
The problem is driven by several converging factors. First, the aging U.S. workforce: It is estimated that 40 percent of our nation’s workers will be eligible to retire in the next five years. Secondly, the increasing technological complexity of today’s economy, as evidenced by 3 million unfilled skilled jobs. Thirdly, the global nature of today’s economy is driving up the demand for highly skilled employees. Fourthly, today’s youth are either dropping out of school, or graduating less prepared in reading, writing and mathematics.
Mark Lautman, in his book, “When the Boomers Bail: How Demographics Will Sort Communities into Winners and Losers,” sums up the problem this way: “What really worries me is what I don’t see: young people. That is, enough young people with the education, skills and experience to replace the 78 million Boomers. . . . It’s a problem that threatens the future of every community in the U.S. and most of the industrialized world.”
As a founding member and current chair of the National Coalition of Certification Centers, or NC3, I am pleased to say that there is a growing and committed group of business and industry, education and government partners engaged in the search for meaningful solutions. Many of us got together recently at the ninth NC3 “train-the-trainer” event, the most successful Skills Instructor training event in the nation, at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wis., and there was no shortage of creative ideas.
Our partnership group includes global industry sponsors Snap-on and Trane; 24 premier schools from the California, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Texas, Alabama, Oregon, North Dakota, Washington, Virginia, Kansas, Arizona, and Puerto Rico; and six organizational partners, ranging from the Federal Aviation Administration, the American Association of Community Colleges, WDI, the Association for Career and Technical Education, the Manufacturing Institute and the Puget Sound Auto Dealers Association. All are committed to closing the educational and skills gap.
NC3 doesn’t get a lot of media attention but it should. The organization emphasizes learning that works to increase the competencies of the American workforce in three key sectors of the economy: transportation, energy and aviation. We have created and implemented a turn-key certification process, driven by industry-recognized certifications that are stackable, portable and third-party validated. Our system involves a network of highly trained and skilled professionals ranging from executives to instructors. To date, we have trained and certified more than 10,000 instructors and students across the nation.
The success of our organization has been recognized internationally. The NC3 certification process is currently being deployed in Morocco. We are in discussions with governments and schools in China, India, and across the Middle East and North Africa. All in all, it’s a pretty impressive record, especially as we have only been in existence for a few years.
NC3 is doing its part to prepare workers for the jobs of the future. We know that this must truly be a team effort and that the best way to achieve our shared goals is by leveraging our expertise through strategic partnerships. As the famous retailer James Cash Penney put it, “Growth is never by mere chance. It is the result of forces working together.”
An important piece of legislation is being considered by the U.S. Senate, S. 1334, a bipartisan effort whose impact on students at PCC and at higher education institutions across the U.S. would be substantial.
Many students at PCC and the nation’s more than 1,100 community colleges come from families of modest means and must borrow money to attend school. Subsidized student loan interest rates doubled on July 1 to 6.8 percent. S. 1334 adjusts interest rate formulas on undergraduate loans – both subsidized and unsubsidized – to lower student and parent loan rates. At PCC, more than 5,000 students are eligible only for loans. For many of these students, who balance family, work and academic obligations, the bill will help lower a barrier to attending school.
An amendment to S. 1334 was to have been offered when the bill is brought to the Senate floor. The amendment would have taken some budgetary savings from S. 1334 to increase funding to the Pell Grant program, and to restore ability-to-benefit (ATB) student aid eligibility for students enrolled in career pathway programs. Unfortunately, that amendment will no longer be considered.
Nonetheless, S. 1334 will provide a financial boost to our students, who view education as a steppingstone to prosperity. These students will be the foundation of a workforce that will thrive in a competitive global marketplace, and enhance the economic development of Southern Arizona.