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The MC President's Blog

December 20, 2010 - Connecting our education to the future workforce needs

(campus conversations) Permanent link

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the annual retreat for the Board of Advisors for the Universities at Shady Grove. The theme for this year’s retreat was “Connecting our 21st century education to our 21st century workforce needs.” I am proud to serve on this board for several reasons, but foremost is because of the phenomenal intellectual stimulation it provides in discussing relevant postsecondary issues affecting the residents of Montgomery County. 
 
One such relevant discussion came after a presentation by George Mason University economist Stephen S. Fuller. Dr. Fuller is the director of the Center for Regional Analysis at the School of Public Policy, and he is an expert on employment trends within the Washington metropolitan region. He offered a provocative analysis of the workforce needs for our area over the next 10 years, and I have been left contemplating the implications of the last part of his presentation, which focused on the future job openings in our region. Of particular interest to me was the startling projection that suggested that the educational level needed for the largest number of new jobs—not replacements but new workers—will be in two specific categories: (1) high school or less with on-the-job training (OJT), and (2) bachelor’s degree. Moreover, projected occupations needing high school or less with OJT, post secondary awards (i.e. certificates), or associate’s degrees will more than double compared to the number of occupations that will require a bachelor’s degree or more.
 
What does this mean? Many of us have articulated for some time that community colleges are the key to the promise of the new economy. We are a central—an essential—component to our nation’s economic recovery, and the data for Montgomery County suggests that we must be actively engaged in any plan for economic and workforce development in our region. Not simply because we provide access to higher education for tens of thousands Montgomery County residents, but because we provide the relevant education for the jobs of the future—careers that, in some cases, may not even exist yet. These are new workers that only we can provide because of our agility and flexibility in providing timely, relevant, industry-driven curriculum for the new economy.
 
As the College prepares to craft a vision statement and revise our mission statement next semester, I challenge us to be bold in articulating our role in the new economy. I remain convinced that we will be teaching ourselves out of this recession, and Montgomery College is uniquely poised to do just that.

November 29, 2010 - Thoughts on Completion Agenda

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On Friday, several members of the College community will be journeying to Annapolis to participate in a Summit on Completion sponsored by the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. This daylong event will highlight the efforts of our 16-member colleges to define the completion agenda for our institutions, and will include a signed commitment by each college to increase our completion rates and to engage in substantive actions to increase student success. We believe this to be the first statewide effort following the White House Summit to define a statewide strategy in response to both Governor Martin O’Malley and President Barack Obama to increase the number of Americans who attain a college degree or credential.
 
While I am delighted to see the collaborative nature of this symposium—learning from and with each other is the only way we will truly be successful in this venture—I am more interested in articulating what this completion agenda will look like for Montgomery College and engaging our college community in candid and courageous conversations about completion. I lay awake at night with so many questions about the nuances of this ambitious agenda. My stream of consciousness kind of looks like this: How can we incentivize completion for our students? How do we get more students through, especially with the numbers who come to us underprepared for college-level work? But, have we as College articulated what is means to be “college-ready”? What should a student be able to do to enter into college-level courses? How can we leverage with MCPS to create a meaningful dialogue around this issue? And then, how do we express the relevancy of the associate degree for our students, our transfer partners, and our local employers? Even if we do that, have we explored the unintentional and unexplored infrastructure barriers that impede completion?
 
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I am willing to ask them, willing to engage in campus conversations that strengthens our College community through student success. It doesn’t hurt to have these conversations, and I know for sure that the brilliant intellectuals of Montgomery College can figure out the answers better than anyone I know. I welcome your thoughts about how we define the completion agenda for Montgomery College.
 
Be well,
DPP


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