Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki

  • Commerce secretary: More investment in workforce training is needed
  • Student aid rulemaking committee meets next week

Commerce secretary: More investment in workforce training is needed

To ensure the U.S. is more economically competitive will require a larger investment in workforce development, according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who on Tuesday pitched for the president’s Build Back Better Act.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., the former governor of Rhode Island outlined her agenda to boost America’s competitiveness, which includes seeking more investments in the U.S. workforce, businesses and innovation.

“The U.S. has under-invested in our workers for decades,” Raimondo said in her prepared remarks. “We spend a fraction of what other advanced economies do on workforce programs.”

She also noted that several federal departments — Commerce, Labor and Education — are aligning their training efforts better by creating a new partnership to design training programs that benefit employers and workers.

“And for the first time in Department of Commerce history, we launched our own grant program that invests in industry-led workforce training and registered apprenticeships – focusing on women, people of color and underserved communities,” Raimondo said.

But creating pathways to jobs will require leadership from businesses.

“It’s not enough for business to be at the table – we need you at the center of the table, helping us design effective workforce training and committing to hire people from these training programs – even if they don’t check all the boxes,” she said. “If people take the risk of getting trained in a new career, they deserve assurances that it’ll lead to a job.”

Business should also look at workers’ skills and not just whether they have a baccalaureate, said Raimondo, observing that 70% of Americans don’t have a four-year college degree.

“We need employers to look beyond diplomas and focus on applicant skills and competencies so everyone can get a job in industries of the future,” she said.

Student aid rulemaking committee meets next week

As part of the U.S. Education Department’s negotiated rulemaking on regulatory changes to federal student aid programs, the committee that will address affordability and student loans will hold its first meeting October 4-8. The committee will hold two more sessions November 1-5 and December 6-10.

Daniel Barkowitz, assistant vice president of financial aid and veterans’ affairs at Valencia College in Florida, will represent college financial aid administrators on the committee, and Robert Ayala, a biology instructor and chair of the arts and science division at Southwest Texas Junior College, will represent community colleges. James Gardner, interim director of student life, athletics and recreation at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College, is the alternate for Ayala.

There is also a subcommittee that will address prison education programs. Kim Cary, director of financial aid at Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri, will represent financial aid administrators. The panel will meet October 18-20 and November 8-10.

All the meetings are virtual and will be streamed online.

About the Author

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