MCC the best place to unveil National Education and Training Initiative

Jul 21, 2009 Issues: Education

It is fitting that President Obama’s announcement of the American Graduation Initiative, a plan to address head-on the challenges of long-term economic recovery by preparing workers with the skills and education needed to compete in a global economy, took place at Macomb Community College.

To stem this economic downturn, we must accelerate job creation across the state. We must continue to pursue every avenue to restart jobs through infrastructure investment, attracting new jobs, stimulating growth, and facilitating small business development. To improve our prospects for long-term job growth, we must also invest now in our work force.

Community colleges are central to expanding educational opportunities. They are affordable, accessible and uniquely able to rapidly respond to the changing needs of their communities. MCC exemplifies this role by designing programs in emerging, high-growth fields and helping both to meet the needs of Michigan’s economy and to shape its economic transformation.

The president’s Graduation Initiative is a $12 billion investment to expand community college programs and classrooms. This plan will provide resultsoriented incentives for schools to increase graduation rates, close achievement gaps, and create curriculum for in-demand fields in partnership with business and industry. It will expand opportunities for online, for-credit learning and facilitate dual enrollment with high schools and universities. The initiative will be paid for by eliminating wasteful student loan subsidies to private banks and lenders.

Much is at stake in this economic transformation, which is why we have designed programs like No Worker Left Behind (NWLB) and expanded the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to help workers transition to completely new careers. To date, almost 1,000 students have or are attending MCC with the help of NWLB. Statewide, almost 78,000 people have enrolled in the program.

Most importantly, we are working to commit the funding necessary for programs like NWLB to make a difference. This year, Michigan will receive $435 million for training with the help of the recovery program, a $162 million increase over last year. The Recovery Act provided an additional $15.6 billion to the Pell Grant scholarship program and raised the maximum grant award by $500 to better keep pace with inflation and the rising costs of tuition. We also created $2,500 a tax credit to help families pay for college.

The success stories from these investments speak for themselves. In March, I held a roundtable at MCC with workers in training programs. Most of the workers had spent their careers in the automotive industry and, in spite of fears they were too old or too far removed from school to begin a new career path, enrolled in courses with the help of federal retraining assistance. As they complete their studies, they are finding work as nurses, IT professionals, paralegals, and continuing on to four-year universities to study fields such as criminal justice and business management.

One story that stayed with me was a woman who was unable to return to her job after suffering a debilitating stroke. With guidance from Michigan Works and MCC, and with tuition assistance from NWLB, she enrolled in the school’s Legal Assistant program. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at University of Detroit-Mercy while working as a paralegal at the U.S. Justice Department. Her talent and perseverance is only one example of hundreds of similar stories throughout Macomb County.

While we continue to implement the recovery program to jump-start the economy, we must take steps, including those announced by the president, to ensure our future prosperity. As the president noted, whenever we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered. An investment in a highly skilled work force is a long-term investment in spurring innovation, creating the jobs of the future, and attracting new businesses to our state.