THE BLOG
12/13/2012 01:09 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2013

Two Year Colleges Are the Bridges

Saint Paul College is a comprehensive two-year community and technical college, and we're in the front and the back end of the business of higher education: dealing with those who aren't college ready and then needing to do our utmost to prepare our students to be career ready or ready to pursue a four-year (or higher) degree. As educators, it is not just our business, but also our moral obligation to do so. Our business is one of great risk and great reward.

We are the only public two-year college in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the state's capital city. Our students are from all walks of life, all ethnic and racial groups and all age groups. I often talk about how Saint Paul College, this city and this state are like a Midwest "Ellis Island" -- providing beacons of hope to those who are yearning to break free from the grips of poverty and illiteracy. Of course we're not an island, but we are that safe haven in an ocean of uncertainty. Our students are our inspiration and compel us to seek excellence in our work.

I agree with renowned author, Ralph Ellison, who is so often quoted for having said during a lecture attended by educators in 1963, "Education is a matter of building bridges." I want to take that a step further -- we don't just build bridges -- we ARE the bridge. Saint Paul College is not a "swing bridge." We are not a "bridge too far." We are a stable bridge with a solid foundation and we have been in existence for over 100 years. It is our mission to provide education for meaningful and gainful employment for our graduates or connections to colleges and universities to pursue their four-year degrees.

At Saint Paul College, we daily forge and strengthen relationships with secondary schools, community agencies, unions, business, labor and industry to continue to develop ways to best prepare students to succeed in their college education and future careers. Because the degree, diploma and certificate programs at Saint Paul College rely on input from their business and industry advisory committees to keep curriculum and training current, employers interested in our students know that the skills they are seeking in new employees will be matched by our graduates. Our special partnerships with the trade and labor unions assures them that students graduating from pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training programs have learned a skilled craft and possess the competencies required as workers to keep industry moving forward.

I want to zero in on a section of our bridge that is so pivotal in school-to-work initiatives and success -- and that's our Career and Placement Center at Saint Paul College. For those students who have never prepared for a job search, or for others who need to become more current in how to prepare, our Career and Placement Center helps guide and support their search efforts. The Center not only provides employers, students and alumni with a free job posting service, but works with the job seekers in preparing relevant resumes for today's online job application processes.

The dialogues between our Career and Placement Center Coordinator and employers help us prepare our students for employment, where teamwork, communication skills, and all those "soft" skills that are essential critical skills to have, will make our students even more valuable. We must succeed in helping the least college-ready students to become career ready, by preparing students with the right set of skills to endure the rigors of their first job, and be job ready. The least college ready students deserve the means to secure a bright and rewarding future for themselves just as much as the most college ready students do. We don't just build the bridges -- we ARE the bridge.