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Newsletter Extra - April 19, 2012

Remarks of Dr. Roy Church
Skills for America's Future Event with President Obama and Secretary Solis
Loraine County Community College
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

 

Good afternoon! I am Roy Church, President of Lorain County Community College. It is my pleasure to open this very special occasion as our community welcomes the President of the United States of America back to your community college. Many of you will recall, President Obama was here in January 2010 for a Town Hall meeting and we are delighted to have him return for this special forum.

Joining him for this visit to Lorain County is U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis as well as Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary within the Employment and Training Administration of the Department of Labor. We welcome these national leaders to Lorain County. Their visit has been a catalyst to gather a dynamic reflection of our community in the audience today, representing government, industry, organized labor, education and most importantly, the skilled workforce of our community.

And what a fitting location for this event. As an institution of higher learning, we are in the education business and hosting forums, like today's, is just that . . . an educational experience and opportunity to learn about some of the most pressing national issues affecting us locally.

For this community, the economy is certainly at the top of that list. But as I look around this room, I am delighted to see so many individuals who are addressing this challenge head-on. People who have lost their jobs and understand what it takes to re-enter a global marketplace. Many of you are here today because you used a life-changing moment to learn new skills that help you to compete for today's jobs. Your training has been supported by our nation's workforce development system and delivered to you through a unique collaboration of Lorain County partners.

As a region, we are at a pivotal moment. Our ability to help companies grow jobs relies on having a ready talent pool. Just yesterday, the college proudly hosted over one hundred employers at a career fair – all of whom have jobs to fill. That is great news!

Many of these jobs are very different from even a few years ago. Ensuring that the College and its workforce partners are offering the right training and education to prepare people for these jobs is our highest priority.

Lorain County leaders have long recognized the importance of coordinating our efforts to meet the needs of employers and keep our residents employed. With limited resources in all systems, we all benefit when we coordinate efforts. One of the ways we do that in Lorain County is by partnering to administer our workforce investment resources for the greatest impact on you, the residents of our community.

Lorain County Community College is a partner in managing our local employment One Stop, known as the Employment Network. Established in 1996, the Employment Network represents a collaboration between the Lorain County Commissioners, Lorain County Joint Vocational School, Lorain County Community College as well as a variety of business, industry and education partners.

This partnership greatly enhances the "systems" ability to serve both employers and job seekers. Individuals can access the same services at Lorain County Community College, Lorain County Joint Vocational School or at the One-Stop main location. In fact, Lorain County Community College hosts a branch of the Employment NetWork on our Enrollment and Career Services Mainstreet, sharing a facility with a branch of the public library, assuring easy access for all.

Serving as a partner in administering workforce development funding is another ideal role for the community college. Training and education are at the heart of our mission. By helping workers get training, just-in-time to meet employment goals, allows them to begin an educational pathway that can serve throughout their careers, from certificates to associate's degrees to earning bachelor's or master's degrees from Lorain County Community College's University Partnership. The University Partnership is a program that offers over 40 advanced degree programs from nine partnering universities right here on this college's campus for a 1/3 of the cost of the same degree when taken at the university.

Education providers, like Lorain County Community College and the Lorain County Joint Vocational School, have a responsibility to grow talent to match jobs. Our partnership works with employers to understand the talent needs of businesses in the region and then determine a strategy for how we can most efficiently meet those needs whether at the vocational school, the College, in a community outreach center or through innovative joint ventures.

We are able to take that experience and put it to work through our partnership with regional economic development leaders as part of the 2011 Jobs Accelerator initiative. Last fall, Lorain County Community College, in partnership with NorTech, Magnet and Jumpstart was selected as one of 20 grantees nationwide for the Jobs Accelerator funding focused on the clusters of flexible electronics and alternative energy.

The idea is simple; but powerful. By working with companies who have new ideas they are trying to commercialize, these companies work with our partners in the formative stages of their planning so we can train the workforce they need to launch new products or processes. When they are ready to go into production, we have people ready for them to hire. We call it the "Speed-to-Market Accelerator." We thank Secretary Solis and Assistant Secretary Oates for the Department of Labor funding for the initiative.

But, building the talent base is just one part of a formula for balanced economic growth. To thrive, a community needs to grow jobs, as well. Lorain County has a long track record of proactively supporting entrepreneurship and job growth.

In 1980, 43% of all people who lived in the county and had jobs worked in manufacturing. Today, it is 16%, while manufacturing contributes about as much to the Gross National Product (GNP) as it did in 1980. Technological advances are the primary reason. So, we have been working hard, with our partners, to grow new jobs in advanced manufacturing to replace some of those we have lost.

We have been helping to grow new companies in new industry sectors right here, building on our past heritage.

The research clearly shows that a region needs a few essential ingredients to help entrepreneurs turn new ideas into new businesses. They need teaching, coaching, mentoring to create businesses around their ideas. They need access to capital and an incubating environment with essential commercialization equipment and resources.

Starting in 2001, the College, the Loraine County Commissioners and the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce came together to launch GLIDE, the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise, a technology incubator focused on instilling a mentoring infrastructure in our community to help people wrap good business practices around their entrepreneurial ideas. Since inception, GLIDE has served over 2,600 entrepreneurs, incubated 105 companies of which 94 are still succeeding and helped grow over 700 new jobs.

A complimentary program, entitled the Innovation Fund, came online in 2007. The Innovation Fund is the earliest stage funding available to entrepreneurs in the region, supported by the philanthropic community and the Ohio Third Frontier Program. Since inception, the fund has awarded over $5.6 million to 90 start-up businesses that, in turn, have raised $65 million in follow on investments and grown 175 new jobs in Ohio's high growth industry clusters.

Most importantly, recipients provided over 160 internships for students in the area of entrepreneurship. So, we are using philanthropic dollars to invest in this generation of entrepreneurs and, at the same time, planting the seeds for the next generation through work-based learning. With this demonstrated success, the Innovation Fund in support of the President's Start-Up America initiative.

And just across the parking lot, the Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems is helping high-tech start-ups as well as small and medium size transitioning manufacturers to accelerate the commercialization of their sensor-based products. The SMART Center provides industry customers with access to equipment and expertise to develop new sensor technologies into real products with global markets.

Last fall, a new resource to grow new entrepreneurial talent was created thanks to the support of the Blackstone Foundation and Burton D. Morgan Foundation. Through this generosity, Lorain County Community College became the first community college in the country to become a Blackstone Launchpad site. The Blackstone Launchpad supports students, the moment they step onto campus, in pursuing an entrepreneurial career pathway and establishes a support system that encourages students to make their own job by starting a venture. This provides another resource for dislocated workers to consider using their skills and abilities to go into business for themselves.

We know the need to grow talent and jobs in manufacturing stands out as a high growth opportunity. Manufacturing remains a vital part of our local and national economy, yet, too many companies report struggling to fill open positions. Global innovation has rapidly changed the skills many companies are seeking. The market is changing as fast as technology.

In response to the needs of dislocated workers as well as talent needs of area employers, Lorain County Community College in partnership with the Lorain County Employment Network and other non-profit, government and business partners, has created a Transformations Program designed to retrain dislocated workers for reentry into the workforce quickly. The program depends upon essential Workforce Investment Act funding to support a most-vulnerable segment of our community. This is an intensive 18-week, 40 hours per week program that retools folks for new careers in promising fields.

Since the program's inception, thirty-four groups of dislocated workers have graduated from the Transformations Program for a total of over 400 students. Placement data kept by the Lorain County Employment Network and the Nord Advanced Technology Center indicates a job placement rate of approximately 90% within 3 months or less of graduation.

Working together employers, workforce systems, and higher education can pursue shared goals to prepare people for the jobs of today as evidenced by the Transformations Program. This is especially important for workers who continue to look for their place in this new economy. Whether they represent the long-term unemployed, veterans returning home, or our young adults looking to secure their first job, we need strategies in place that put this talent to work for America.

That is the goal of our next presenter this afternoon, serving as a champion of workforce issues. It is my distinct honor to introduce the United States Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Secretary Solis was confirmed as Secretary of Labor on February 24, 2009. Prior to confirmation, Secretary Solis represented the 32nd Congressional District in California, a position she held from 2001 to 2009.

In Congress, her priorities included expanding access to affordable health care, protecting the environment, and improving the lives of working families. A recognized leader on clean energy jobs, she authored the Green Jobs Act, which provided funding for"green" collar job training for veterans, displaced workers, at risk youth, and individuals in families under 200 percent of the federal poverty limit.

In 2007, she was appointed to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), as well as the Mexico — United States Interparliamentary Group.

A nationally recognized leader on the environment, Secretary Solis became the first woman to receive the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award in 2000 for her pioneering work on environmental justice issues. Her California environmental justice legislation, enacted in 1999, was the first of its kind in the nation to become law.

Secretary Solis knows community colleges; she was first elected to public office in 1985 as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees. She served in the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1994, and in 1994 made history by becoming the first Latina elected to the California State Senate. As the chairwoman of the California Senate Industrial Relations Committee, she led the battle to increase the state's minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour in 1996. She also authored a record seventeen state laws aimed at combating domestic violence.

Secretary Solis graduated from California State Polytechnic University, and earned a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Southern California. A former federal employee, she worked in the Carter White House Office of Hispanic Affairs and was later appointed as a management analyst with the Office of Management and Budget in the Civil Rights Division.

Please join me in welcoming United States Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.