Letters to the Editor

Bridging the gap – Shaping the workforce of tomorrow

Change is inevitable – particularly in the work world. That is why McHenry County College focuses much of its efforts on developing programs that bridge the gap between workforce needs in the county and an educated workforce. The college serves as a major resource for the training, retraining, recertification, and education of McHenry County residents.

McHenry County College is a servant of the taxpayers, so it is our responsibility to provide the educational opportunities that help move McHenry County forward. Our goal is to increase the number of McHenry County residents who have a higher education certificate or degree.

We serve more than 30 percent of the county’s residents each year, while providing training and workforce education for nearly 600 companies in the district, and welcome more than 33 percent of all in-district high school graduates annually to our programs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, eight of the 10 fastest-growing careers do not require a bachelor’s degree. Instead, 60 percent of jobs in the country will require some level of postsecondary education by 2018. On average, there is only a $3,000 difference in salary earnings between someone with a bachelor’s degree and someone with an associate degree. Community colleges have become a major player in the success of their communities through educating a state-of-the-art workforce.

Over the past five years, the number of certificates awarded by MCC has increased by 69 percent. The number of associate degrees awarded has increased by 43 percent. We also are leading all the community colleges in Northern Illinois in terms of the completion rate of our students in certificates, degrees and those who transfer to four-year colleges.

The 2012 McHenry County Labor Report (Q3) identified health care and manufacturing as two of the largest areas of labor needs. The report indicated that by 2015, an additional 1,000-plus health care jobs would need to be filled, a 10 percent increase! The Illinois Department of Employment Services Illinois job postings for 2012 ranked health care positions as No. 1, with close to 3,000 openings! Manufacturers come to the college asking for educated, skilled graduates to meet the needs of their thriving businesses.

MCC, as your community college, has worked hard to bridge that workforce gap. Over the past four years, MCC has added career programs in nursing, occupational therapy assistant, billing and coding, robotics, industrial management, graphic design, and culinary management.

As stewards of your taxpayer dollars, and with less and less support from the state, we must do more with fewer resources. Creativity, resourcefulness and collaboration are the key components to ensuring MCC can meet the workforce needs of the district.

The college stretches its resources by bringing classes to satellite locations, adding online programs, collaborating with area manufacturers to use their facilities and equipment, and expanding our grant requests in our high-growth areas. Even as we stretch our dollars through partnerships and collaborations, we still cannot meet the space needs for the educational program growth, particularly for the specialized laboratories and instructional spaces.

The space needs have prompted us to examine possible public-private partnerships that would allow us to expand our educational program space for the sciences and health care programs, without going to the taxpayers. We currently are conducting a Phase 2 feasibility study to determine whether there are potential partners in the health care field, as well health and wellness. Hopefully, such partners will be identified through our study, so we can provide the needed spaces and equipment to educate our community’s future science, health care and health fitness professionals.

You may wonder what this means to you personally. At some point – and often more than once – you or your loved ones will require health care services supplied in our county. Do you think the current status quo is enough?

How would you feel if there were not enough options or services to meet your personal needs in a timely way? Or if the people caring for you did not have the skills needed to perform their jobs without error? Or if your caregiver was not aware of the latest preventive and treatment options needed by you?

That is where McHenry County College enters the picture. MCC’s commitment is to provide the education to this community’s future workforce – in health care and other arenas – so that you can have added confidence in the capabilities of those assisting you.

• Dr. Vicky Smith is president of McHenry County College.

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