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Secretary of Labor recommends shift in approach at community colleges

September 22, 2012 |  7:00 am

The more than $500 million in grant money allotted to nearly 300 community colleges and universities for job training this week reflects a needed shift in priorities in community colleges, according to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

The grants, part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, are a piece of an Obama administration program designed to promote skills development and employment opportunities among students, Solis said in an interview.

“So we can train people for the jobs that businesses aren’t finding qualified individuals for,” Solis said.

The $500 million is the second installment of the four-year, $2-billion initiative, according to a Department of Labor statement.

Solis, who began her career in public office as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees, said the connection between the schools and business leaders will enhance the access students have to the skills and resources needed to compete in the job market.

“That’s a collaboration that hasn’t really existed. We saw some instances but not often and not regularly. In the last decade community colleges have lost sight of that,” she said. “We don’t just want them to get a certificate for the sake of getting a certificate. We want them to get a certificate that means something, that will put them in a good career path and land them a good job.”

That approach, Solis said, will turn out more people with skills in manufacturing, assisting the country in bringing jobs back from overseas and increasing American exports.

“Right now, in the United States, the priority is to provide people with the training and skills needed to fill jobs,” she said.

Locally, East Los Angeles College received nearly $3 million. Cerritos College, Los Angeles Trade Technical College and Los Angeles Valley College will receive funding through their respective consortium memberships with other colleges around the country.

In Northern California, a consortium of 10 community colleges, along with UC Berkeley and Cal State East Bay, received $15 million. The community colleges include Berkeley City College, Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College, Los Medanos College, Ohlone College, College of Alameda, Chabot College, Laney College, Merritt College and Solano College.

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--Stephen Ceasar

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