Students seeking specialized job training through a community college will find many opportunities in the coming year. Community colleges are partnering with the federal government and private business, and NYSUT members at community colleges are collaborating to bring grants, training programs, new buildings and other resources to their schools.
At the federal level, the Department of Labor recently announced a $14.6 million grant to a consortium of SUNY community colleges for the development and expansion of innovative training programs that will promote employment opportunities in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation, health care and science, technology, engineering and math. The grant also will be used to encourage and build partnerships with local employers.
Mohawk Valley Community College coordinated the grant application, with the help of NYSUT members on the faculty and staff there.
As part of the same federal grant program, the City University of New York's Borough of Manhattan Community College received $3 million to expand programs for workers eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance in careers projected to have the strongest growth in New York City through 2016. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act helps with retraining and job assistance to workers whose careers have been adversely affected by imports.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, during the recent 34th annual NYSUT Community College Conference, lauded the hard work of the community colleges through the recession. "Community colleges are economic engines for New York state," she said.
The grants and other positive developments come even as enrollment has dipped at a number of community colleges, by 2 to 3 percent in the New York City metropolitan area and by as much as 8 percent in the North Country. Community colleges had been seeing rapidly increasing enrollment — by as much as 8 or 10 percent at some campuses — through much of the recession.
The community college system expected enrollment to decrease as the recession began to end, said Ellen Schuler Mauk, president of the Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College and a NYSUT Board member.
But the downshift in enrollment could also mean that "people don't have the money to continue," Schuler Mauk said. "If people have been unemployed for three years, they can't afford to go back to school."
Schuler Mauk said Suffolk expects to add 15 new full-time faculty soon, a sign the college is committed to continuing to help those students most in need. And the Department of Labor grant, which will reach every community college in the SUNY system, is expected to help extend training to students who have been out of work for years and may be running out of both money and hope.