Community Colleges Are Poised to Help the Commonwealth’s Economy Thrive

“We need a diverse economy with family-supporting jobs,” wrote Greg Zebrowski, chairman of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, in a recent submission to the Allentown Morning Call. He went on to praise Northampton Community College and Lehigh Carbon Community College for their commitment to preparing Pennsylvanians for in-demand, well-paying careers in the Commonwealth.

Because that is what community colleges do – they partner with employers, identify gaps in the workforce pipeline, and create programs that train for those specialized careers. And they do it well.

In the Lehigh Valley, for example, Lehigh Carbon Community College recently partnered with Amazon to establish a training program that prepares apprentices in advanced manufacturing – one of only four such Amazon programs nationwide. This training is part of Amazon’s Mechatronics and Robotics Apprenticeship program and provides a pathway to careers in industrial automation for people working in Amazon’s next generation of distribution and fulfillment centers.

This type of partnership is being replicated with small, medium and large employers across the Commonwealth. Community colleges partner with more than 1,800 businesses to create programs that meet Pennsylvania’s workforce needs, including educating for High Priority Occupations. For instance, in 2017-18, Pennsylvania community colleges awarded more than 75 percent of the associate degrees earned in Nursing within the Commonwealth.

“Our future is tied to education, job training and innovative public and private initiatives that create jobs and help protect our environment,” concluded Mr. Zebrowski in his Morning Call editorial.

Community colleges here in the Commonwealth are working to ensure that Pennsylvania’s future is a bright one. If lawmakers invest in community colleges in the FY 2021-22 budget, the Keystone State will have to wear shades.