‘Community colleges need to be at the table’

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh testified remotely on Wednesday before the House Education and Labor Committee. (Image: Screenshot of streamed event)

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on Wednesday pitched to House members the key pillars of President Joe Biden’s broad-reaching and pricey plan to revamp the economy, upskill workers, raise equity and more.

Community colleges would play a key role in that plan, and Walsh didn’t mince words about it at the House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing, where he made a case for more investments for workforce development programs and public two-year colleges.

“When we think about the future of workforce development, community colleges need to be at the table from the first day to the last,” he said.

It was a theme the secretary kept returning to during the hearing.

“We have to look at, as a country, a stronger partnership with our community college system,” said Walsh, who noted his recent conversation with Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges and AACC staff. “That’s a natural area to go when we think of investments in communities.”

Several committee members noted the contributions of community colleges in their districts, especially in workforce development.

“Community colleges have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to the changing needs of employers in a way that four-year colleges I don’t think are geared to do,” said Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania). “We see our community colleges steering new students into career paths/jobs paths where they are very much needed and likely to become employed.”

During the hearing, Walsh answered questions on a wide range of topics, from reauthorizing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and registered apprenticeships, to unemployment benefits, child care, worker safety and more. He discussed how the president’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 and his American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan would spearhead a transformation in the public workforce system.

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About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.