Lexington, KY - Ford Millworker Karen Meadows of Louisville asked Dr. Jill Biden and the gathered audience if they had ever cut inch-thick steel with a laser. Meadows said she had, thanks to the extensive training she received at Ford from Jefferson Community & Technical College.
Meadows, who represented one of six college-industry partnerships was on the platform during a stop of the Biden’s “Community College to Career” bus tour at Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Lexington. The three-day tour highlights the unique role community colleges play in developing a flexible, highly-skilled 21st-century workforce to meet emerging regional business needs.
Biden, a long-time community college professor and wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who once served the board of directors of a community college, were making the tour to bring attention to these critical partnerships, which have boosted economic development in their regions.
“The first time I sat in a physics class I cried all the way home,” Meadows told the audience. “But I did it. And now I love my job so much, there are days I would do it for free. I can’t say thanks enough for the opportunity Ford and JCTC gave me.”
Biden and Solis also heard from Tom Volta, vice president of Human Resources for UPS, who discussed the Metropolitan College partnership with JCTC and the University of Louisville and the multi-billion dollar impact it has had on the region.
Five Kentucky Community & Technical College System colleges and their partners were highlighted during a panel discussion at the BCTC Leestown Campus. JCTC was invited to showcase its partnerships with Ford Motor Company and UPS. The college has provided training programs for the Louisville Ford plants for about 20 years and has played an integral role in training employees in the recently renovated Fern Valley Road plant. JCTC also partners with UPS and the University of Louisville on Metropolitan College, in which students work for UPS overnight operation in exchange for paid tuition and books at JCTC or U of L. The partnership is growing to transition students into full-time jobs with GE, Norton Healthcare, Ford, Thorntons, Texas Roadhouse and others.
The other four KCTCS colleges were Bluegrass Community and Technical College (Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals; Darah Johnson, student); Hopkinsville Community College (Gateway Medical Center; Danny Lamont Anderson, former student); Somerset Community College (Jackson Energy; Jeremy Raborn, former student); and West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 184; Corey Hicks, former student).
The “Community College to Career” bus tour evolved earlier this month after President Obama announced a new $8 billion Community College to Career Fund. The Fund is co-administered by the Department of Labor and Department of Education to forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train two million workers with skills that will lead directly to jobs.
The bus tour began in Columbus, Ohio and will end on Feb. 24, 2012, in Thomasville, North Carolina. The visit to BCTC was the only stop in Kentucky.