THE BLOG

Building Better Pathways to In-Demand Careers

07/25/2014 06:15 pm ET | Updated Sep 24, 2014

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 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.