ccDaily > White House bus tour spotlights top-notch partnerships

White House bus tour spotlights top-notch partnerships


​Training provided through Roane
State Community College's
Advanced Materials Training
and Education Center helped
Mark Boody find a job as a
maintenance technician
with MillenniTEK.

Roane State Community College (RSCC) showed how important two-year colleges are to local and regional economies when the Food Lion grocery chain announced in January that it would close its distribution center and store in Clinton, Tenn., eliminating about 250 jobs.

RSCC leaders promptly met with Food Lion officials to create a seven-week training program for those laid-off workers that will begin in March at the closed distribution center. Meanwhile, Eagle Bend Manufacturing, an automotive parts supplier in Clinton, has agreed to interview and possibly hire qualified individuals who complete the training.

The program is among several partnerships that RSCC has developed with local and regional businesses, and one that college officials will share with Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis when they visit the college this week. RSCC will also highlight its Labor Department-funded Advanced Materials Training Education Center (AMTEC), which serves unemployed and under-employed workers at no cost to them. The 14-week, manufacturing technician program includes courses on OSHA safety certification, computer skills, basic lean manufacturing, and basic machining and measuring, among others.

Classes are primarily held at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and some sessions take place at the Tennessee Technology Center and at a Pellissippi State Community College campus.

These are examples of some of the workforce development programs developed between community colleges and local and regional businesses that the White House wants to highlight during a three-day bus tour that will take Biden—an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College—and Solis—a former community college trustee—to Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Last week, President Barack Obama proposed a new $8-billion Community College to Career Fund to build such partnerships between two-year colleges and businesses to train 2 million workers for available jobs.

Kick off in Columbus

The Biden/Solis tour begins on Wednesday at Columbus State Community College (CSCC) in Ohio, which will host a panel discussion with college and business leaders on partnerships with three industries—logistics, information technology and insurance—that train workers for available jobs. 

The White House is asking community college faculty, students, business and community leaders to share how such partnerships have affected their communities. Submit stories through

The two-pronged LogisticsART (Attracting & Retaining Talent) program trains unemployed workers for warehouse and distribution jobs, with a second component teaching leadership skills to incumbent workers in the industry, said Cheryl Hay, administrator of the college’s Center for Workforce Development. CSCC aims to train 1,000 workers under the first part of the program, and has already reached its goal of training 150 employees for the second part and is on track to train 400, she said. For ITART (Information Technology Attracting & Retaining Talent), the college developed a labor market survey for the local IT association and as a result quickly developed JAVA developer and business analyst programs to serve the needs of local IT companies.

The third partnership is a result of an initiative spearheaded by Gov. John Kasich, who created an industry advisory group of insurance CEOs to determine their business and workforce needs. The insurance industry in the state had data outlining its workforce needs, but it hasn’t developed a plan to transcribe the information into potential careers, Hay said. Insurance companies in Ohio will need to hire 17,000 new workers over the next nine years—which is roughly 57 percent of the current insurance workforce—for jobs that on average pay $65,000 annually, she said.

While industry will tackle promoting careers in insurance, CSCC is developing a curriculum that will address skills needed for those jobs, Hay said.

Other tour sites

After CSCC, Biden and Solis will tour the production line at DG Medical—which manufactures quality plastic-molded components for medical devices—in Centerville, Ohio. The company partners with Sinclair Community College for its workforce needs. The next Ohio stop will be at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College to hear how U.S. Labor Department funding is helping to expand a health care collaborative and a UPS facility in Lexington, Ky.

Thursday’s stops will include a visit to Bluegrass Community and Technical College (Kentucky) to hear from participants in the automotive, energy, HVAC and bio-technology industries. Biden and Solis will then visit RSCC.

Later on Thursday, the White House bus will stop at Wytheville Community College in Virginia, where officials will highlight the college’s partnership with Gatorade. The company opened a plant in the college’s service area in 2006 and asked WCC to develop training programs for its new hires. Since then, five more training programs to serve Gatorade have been added, covering areas such as industrial maintenance, distribution center operations and project management, as well as developing skills in various software programs. WCC hopes to add to those programs with a non-credit program on practical electrical applications for maintenance technicians, said Joe Bybee, director of workforce development at the college.

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden will join the tour for its final stop at Davidson County Community College in North Carolina.