Community colleges are changing the lives of students and positively impacting the communities they serve.
Dr. Mark Erickson, president of Northampton Community College, admits he didn't fully grasp the complexity and depth of what community colleges did until he became president of the institution six years ago, he wrote in a recent Op-Ed in The Morning Call.
"But I am now awed every day by the impact this college, and all community colleges like us, have in changing lives of students and the communities we serve," Dr. Erickson said. "As the Lehigh Valley's largest (nearly 30,000 students) and most diverse college, NCC by its very mission serves the broader community in ways other Lehigh Valley colleges are simply unable. Based on what our students tell us, fully 40 percent would not have a college option if we didn't exist."
Dr. Erickson notes: By starting their college careers at a community college, then transferring to a four-year institution, students can reduce the cost of a degree by 50 percent or more.
Lehigh Carbon Community College
and Northampton Community College are among the institutions that received a $246,000 state grant to train Lehigh Valley workers for machining jobs in manufacturing plants.
State Sen. Lisa M. Boscola, co-chair of the Community College Caucus, praised the Strategic Innovation Grant program, saying: "I am excited about the growth and continued diversification of our economy. These grants should help us strengthen our manufacturing sector by preparing our workers for machining jobs."
The grants, administered by the state Department of Labor and Industry, are aimed at preparing workers with skills essential for entry-level machining positions for Lehigh Valley manufacturers, Sen. Boscola said. It includes placement into full-time employment, with a focus on continued training, as well as strengthening relationships with employers and improving job training curricula.
In addition, the awards encourage creativity and innovation in achieving workforce development outcomes for both employers and job seekers.
Beaver County Chamber of Commerce's April newsletter highlighted the positive impact the Community College of Beaver County is making on its local economy. Similar reports throughout the state show municipalities and counties are benefiting from the work of Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges.
Included in the findings is past and present students of CCBC have generated $161.1 million in added income for the county, which is equivalent to 2,547 jobs. As a result of its daily operations, CCBC has contributed $15.3 million in added income to the county in 2016-17.
At Lehigh Carbon Community College, the college and its students/alumni generated $305.5 million in added income in 2016-17 and supported 4,704 jobs. For every dollar spent by students, $3.20 is gained in lifetime earnings and for every dollar spent by taxpayers, $4.90 is gained in added taxes and public sector savings.
Similarly, Luzerne County Community College creates significant positive impact on the businesses and community and generates a return on investment for students, taxpayers and society. For example, in 2016-17, the total impact from added income, operating and student spending equated to $403.1 million and 6,798 jobs.
Four students at Luzerne County Community College are taking advantage of an apprenticeship program where they are earning a paycheck and receiving on the job training. Their employer, Greiner Packaging, also pays for them to go to college.
The state Department of Labor and Industry Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development Eileen Cipriani toured Greiner and learned about the program. "What we hear from businesses is they are having a hard time finding skilled workers," she said.
The average salary in the manufacturing industry in Pennsylvania is $60,000, Deputy Secretary Cipriani said.
Greiner recently received a $75,000 pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship grant as part of $3.5 million in grant money the state has distributed to support pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship programs to help provide workers the training they need to get good jobs with family-sustaining wages.