Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 ACCT Congress: Incoming ACCT Chair Identifies the Skills Gap, Living Wage as Key Priorities

As the 2012 ACCT Leadership Congress came to a close, ACCT's incoming chair stressed the importance of addressing the skills gap and ensuring that community colleges work with a broad array of partners to ensure their graduates find jobs that pay a living wage.

"We have a serious problem in America today, and that's the skills gap," said ACCT Chair Jean Torgeson, a trustee at North Iowa Area Community College. "There's only one institution that can fix this, and that's community colleges. We can't do it alone, and we have to stop pointing fingers and start building partnerships with business and industry, foundation, K-12 systems—anybody who will build partnerships with us. We need everybody."

Stressing that "a living wage is not the minimum wage," Torgeson pointed to the agendas of the most recent previous ACCT chairs—poverty, student success, global education, collaboration, and partnerships—and stressed how each connects to the goal of ensuring that community colleges help their students find meaningful careers capable of sustaining families.

"Our economic recovery depends on it," she said.

The final keynote speaker, astronaut Dr. Andrew Feustel, discussed how his experience at Oakland Community College in Michigan prepared him for advanced studies and a career that culminated in two missions aboard the Space Shuttle. "The foundation I had at OCC really allowed me to explore the options for my future, and I received a degree that easily transferred to four-year institutions and allowed me to get a Ph.D. and ultimately go to space," he said.

Closing the 2012 Congress, Torgeson urged trustees to focus on student success and partnerships when they return to their colleges. "The train is leaving the station," she said. "I expect every trustee to be active on their local boards. Ask the tough questions and get those partnerships formed—and get all those students jobs with a living wage."

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