by Diane VanDyke
Montgomery County Community College is one of 17 community colleges from across the country selected to participate in Job Ready, Willing and Able Initiative (JRWA) to help train America’s workforce. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) recently announced the Walmart Foundation will provide a $4.19 million three-year grant to support the JRWA initiative with $2.67 million directly supporting community colleges, including MCCC.
“Montgomery County Community College’s Center for Workforce Development provides high-quality business skills programs to meet the needs of individuals, businesses and professional organizations in Montgomery County and the local region,” said College President Dr. Karen A. Stout. “The Job Ready, Willing and Able Initiative will allow the Center to offer new courses that will enable students to gain viable skills needed for immediate employment opportunities.”
The JRWA initiative will provide middle-skill training, industry recognized credentials, and access to employment across varying industry sectors in each of the 17 communities.
As part of this initiative, MCCC will develop a pipeline through its existing Office Administration Program to create a non-credit, competency-based Office Assistant certificate. Students will enroll in three courses—Business Software Essentials, Microsoft Word Applications and Modern Office Management—to attain computer literacy skills, as well as the vital “soft” skills expected by employers in business environments. The certificate can be completed in less than a year, allowing students to quickly enter the workforce.
Additionally after completing the certificate, students will have the opportunity to pursue the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam for Microsoft Word 2013. This sought-after credential provides students with marketable skills that will further increase their chances for employment. Moreover, students who complete this certificate will have the opportunity to stack the courses into credit programs at the College, if they decide to continue their education in the Office Administration field and gain additional skills that will lead to new opportunities and higher salaries.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, office and administrative support occupations is one of the largest occupation groups in the Commonwealth. The Center for Workforce Information and Analysis projects 105 annual openings in this field in Montgomery County. Additionally, there is a growing need in the Montgomery County Region for general office clerks, with an expected 338 annual openings in the County and an estimated 14,620 total jobs in 2016.
“We are proud to continue our work with Walmart Foundation at a time when the nation is focused on middle-skill careers and opportunities. This initiative is a model for how community colleges can connect students with specific, sustainable jobs in their communities and contribute to long-term economic growth,” said Walter Bumphus, AACC president and CEO.
Working with the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board, the College plans to reach unemployed populations to provide this invaluable training to fill the open office positions of the County’s workforce. Additionally, the College will work with the Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS) program to offer this training to deserving students in the program.
The AACC selected the 17 participating colleges through a highly competitive process. Four colleges will be mentor colleges, with support from AACC, the National Association of Workforce Boards, AACC Affiliate Councils and industry associations. Mentors were selected from AACC’s 2008–2010 Workforce Economic Opportunity Initiative funded by Walmart Foundation and will provide additional guidance to 13 mentee colleges.
All colleges will work closely with local businesses, economic development leaders and the area workforce systems to collaboratively address the needs of the unemployed. The initiative aims to provide more than 5,000 unemployed adults with new skills, credentials and jobs.
The four selected mentor colleges are Arkansas Northeastern College, Arkansas; Northeast Community College, Nebraska; Umpqua Community College, Oregon; and Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia.
In addition to MCCC, the 12 mentee colleges selected for the JRWA initiative are Grossmont College, California; Community College of Aurora, Colorado; St. Johns River State College, Florida; Kirkwood Community College, Iowa; Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana; Hazard Community and Technical College, Kentucky; Jamestown Community College, New York; Cuyahoga Community College, Ohio; Northeast State Community College, Tennessee; Tarrant County College District, Texas; Snow College, Utah; and West Virginia University at Parkersburg, West Virginia.