By Collin Eaton
Community colleges across the country will receive about $500-million in federal grants beginning on Monday, the first of four payments in a $2-billion plan announced last year that is intended to improve career-development programs and train an ailing work force.
More than 200 community colleges applied for the grants, which range from about $2.7-million to $25-million, but only 49 have been chosen to receive the money so far, officials from the U.S. Departments of Labor and of Education said in announcing the awards. Community colleges in 15 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico did not receive grants, but will work with the federal departments to develop programs that are eligible—each will receive about $2.7-million. The winning colleges will be able to buy equipment, hire staff members, and develop job-training curricula.
“Today, we’re making a strategic investment in our work force,” Hilda L. Solis, the secretary of labor, said during a conference call with reporters. “Right now, there are high-growth industries in this country that can’t find skilled labor to fill open positions. We need to train our workers to fill them. Community colleges understand the needs of local employers.”
Each community college to receive a grant will team up with at least one business, an employer with job openings, in developing the curriculum.
Honolulu Community College received the largest grant, $24.6-million, for its “Just in TIME (Teaching Innovation in Math and English)” developmental-training program. The program aims to reduce the high percentage of students enrolled in remedial mathematics and English courses, according to the Labor Departments.
Tidewater Community College, an institution in Virginia representing all 23 of the state’s community colleges, received $24.1-million to go forward with seven strategies, including using new technology tools, providing improved retention services, and redesigning its developmental-education program.
Community colleges in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington State each received $20-million for career-development programs, including a Spokane Community College program that has worked with aerospace companies and aircraft makers to create goals for the curriculum. The Community College of Pennsylvania is focusing on laid-off workers who are having trouble regaining past wage levels; the community college is leading a 14-member consortium to standardize and customize courses for the volatile marketplace.
In Massachusetts, Quinsigamond Community College will lead a group of colleges that aims to engage business and political leaders to change the training system for jobs that require more than a high-school diploma but less than a four-year degree, including adding entrepreneurship training.
In Minnesota, Northland Community and Technical College will receive $4.8-million to create a new associate-degree program aimed at increasing statewide demand for workers to manage images coming from unmanned aircraft systems.
In the recession-battered Rust Belt, a region known for its manufacturing and construction, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (where a faculty strike began last Friday) will get $19.6-million to work with community colleges in Illinois, Texas, and other states to educate low-skilled laid-off employees to work in the health-care industry.
Nevada, the state with the highest unemployment rate, was among the states that did not have a qualifying program. Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming also did not receive any grants but are expected to get funds in the coming months.