Thursday, October 11, 2012

Secretary of Labor Solis gets look at old, new KCKCC-TEC


“The best part of my job is getting out and seeing students,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

And she did just that in a two-hour visit to the present and new Technical Education Centers (TEC) at Kansas City Kansas Community College Thursday, spending time talking with students in welding and machine technology programs at the current TEC at 59th and Parallel Parkway and then taking an abbreviated tour of the new TEC under construction in the former Wal-Mart shopping complex at 65th and State.

“The bottom line is if we’re going to make a difference in education will be determined by if our students get a job,” said Solis. “It’s not rocket science that we need to get people back to work. There is a need for people with technical skills and we need to assure they don’t just get certificates that lead to nothing but that they get jobs.”

A former member of the Board of Trustees of a community college in California, Solis said she might never have been admitted into college had it not been for the advice of a high school counselor.

“One counselor said I’d probably be like my sister and be a secretary,” said Solis. “I told him that I wanted to go to college and he actually told me I was not qualified, which made me angry. It motivated me. Another counselor told me if I put my mind to it, I could do it and I was able to go to college.”

Solis’ visit coincided with the Department of Labor’s awarding KCKCC a $2,966,045 grant through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training initiative.

The funding will help improve training for high-wage, high-skill occupations such as construction; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and advanced manufacturing through the Training for Employment program.

“We will be able to meet employer needs by expanding and improving KCKCC’s ability to deliver career programs in two years or less,” said Dr. Marvin Hunt, Dean of Business and Continuing Education and a member of a committee headed by Vice-President of Academic Affairs Dr. Tamara Agha-Jaffar that after months of intensive research put together the proposal for the $2.9 million grant.

Dr. Agha-Jaffar said a Transition to Employment (TTE) Center will be created and staffed in the new TEC to support employment services in conjunction with area employment agencies and will expand infrastructure, offer intensive advising, add instructional talent, implement alternative instructional methods and improve learning through technology.

In addition, the grant will create career pathways in Construction and Advanced Manufacturing; develop articulation agreements with universities, establish training in Financial Literacy, Employ-ability and Entrepreneurship training; make intellectual property available through dissemination so others can benefit; and set up a website to facilitate info sharing among stakeholders.

Solis told a gathering of approximately 50 business leaders, college staff and administrators and media that she hoped that in another year or two she will be able to return to find the new TEC filled and bustling with programs and activities.

The new facility will be named the Dr. Thomas R. Burke Technical Education Center in honor of the former president whose vision led the purchase of the Wal-Mart complex and two empty car dealerships which now house the TEC’s auto technical and collision repair programs.

“This facility will bear his name in testimony to his forward thinking leadership,” said Brian Bode, Vice-President of Student and Administrative Services.

Scheduled for opening in August of 2013, Bode said the new Burke TEC will house more than 25 technical education programs.

A $23 million project, nearly every program will have at least twice as much space as available now and all of it specifically designed to support that program.

“We believe in and have supported the role of Technical Education  in providing Wyandotte County and the state of Kansas with a trained and fully employable workforce as well as being dedicated to providing the finest liberal arts education,” said Bode. “That mission permeates throughout the College each day and is a major component of KCKCC being the most progressive, forward looking, forward thinking community college in the state of Kansas and beyond.”