I couldn’t agree more with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ comments following her recent visit to Valencia Community College. Touring their Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, she declared “Community colleges are a tremendous option, a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous on-ramp for many students.” Valencia’s programs were built with support from the U.S. Department Of Labor’s (DOL) Trade Adjustment Act Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program, a $1.9 million investment in the nation’s community colleges.
TAACCCT supports accelerated community college reforms across the country—reforms that have led to the kind of industry-aligned programs that Secretary DeVos saw in action at Valencia. Through TAACCCT, nearly 2,700 programs have been developed at 700 colleges across the country, all with the involvement of industry to build up-to-date curriculum and work-based learning opportunities so displaced and unemployed adults can re-enter the workforce more quickly.
But it wasn’t just programs that were developed by TAACCCT; colleges funded by TAACCCT pursued an entirely new way of designing and delivering services—so more students could be successful and more employers could find the workforce they need. As President Pam Eddinger of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston observes, “we didn’t just build courses; TAACCCT really kickstarted conversations about what the K-16 continuum should look like. A lot of sparks were here, but TAACCCT really added fuel to the fire.”
TAACCCT, begun through a partnership of U.S. DOL and U.S. DOE, is exactly the kind of federal investment that reaps rewards for workers and employers. With TAACCCT, colleges are working in partnership with employers to fuel the economy. As Lisa Byars of Freudenberg-Nok Sealing Technologies in New Hampshire explains, “We face competition to hire and retain the best and brightest manufacturing technicians and engineers. As the economy recovers and more companies seek these kinds of employees, programs like Lake Region Community College’s become critical in maintaining a pipeline of talented manufacturing candidates.”
According to Brian Albrecht, Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin, “The TAACCCT grant has allowed us to leverage, to a greater extent, how we can use industry-specific certification programs embedded into traditional academic programs, which will allow students to leverage their experiences beyond the current degree.”
TAACCCT is entering its final 18 months, but it’s critical that the Departments of Labor and Education continue to recognize the value of programs like it, even as the Administration moves to cut programs deemed ineffective. Programs like TAACCCT sow seeds that create lasting impact on our economy and our workers. Community colleges play a critical role in closing the skills gap and fueling the economic vitality of regions across the country. Let’s make sure that we recognize that and continue to support them to do this work.
Listen to Voices of TAACCCT College Presidents: A Podcast Series to learn more about how community colleges nationwide are leveraging TAACCCT opportunities.