March 2, 2005:
President Bush Visits AACC to Discuss the Importance of Community Colleges in Training America's Workforce
President George W. Bush this week praised the nation’s community colleges for providing flexible, affordable education as he brought a “conversation” about the importance of education and workforce development to a crowd of about 900 at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Md.
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., AACC President Martha A. Smith, Anne Arundel Medical Center Vice President of Human Resources Joyce Phillip and two community college students joined the president on stage Wednesday, March 2. The audience included politicians, government employees, business employees, state and county education officials and AACC students and employees.
President Bush highlighted the important role community colleges play in training the nation’s workforce, saying we must “make sure people get the workforce training they need, and what better place to talk about it than at a community college that is working. Community colleges are available, affordable and flexible. They are capable of adjusting the curriculum to help meet critical employer needs.”
Smith, in her 11th year at the helm of AACC, said community colleges always have been flexible and responsive. AACC uses curriculum advisory committees made up of business leaders and employers to identify workforce trends and gaps in workers’ skills that the college can correct with new or revised training programs. AACC also relies on analyses of high-demand industries by the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board. Then, with all that information in place, the college can shape its curriculum so its students master the skills needed to succeed in today’s global economy.
“Traditionally, we’ve talked about associate degrees and certificates. What’s new is how fast technology and job requirements are changing,” Smith said. “They (students) want it now; they want that skill set, they want that training that will allow them to get that next job.”
That change in attitude means that in addition to making sure credit programs meet industry demands, the college also is expanding its noncredit, continuing education programs, often in partnership with government agencies and area businesses.
“Your desire to seek the help that’s there shows what is possible,” Bush said in praising the community college students on the stage and in the audience.
He talked about revamping the Workforce Investment Act to make it easier for states to take advantage of some of the programs. President Bush also used the forum to briefly address other national issues involving peace in the Middle East, Social Security reform, passage of an energy bill that would support using corn and soybeans to produce energy and his goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009.