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Grant Promises To Boost Job Training And College Enrollment

A new federal grant will be used to create more programs to train Vermonters for jobs in manufacturing, agribusiness and other fields.

The programs may also help build enrollment at a time when student numbers are stagnant or dropping.

Five years ago President Obama set this goal: By 2020, America will have the highest per capita college graduation rate in the world. To get there, he announced $12 billion in support for job training education at community colleges around the country.  

In 2011, the Community College of Vermont received $2.5 million under the program. The money was used to create three job training programs, including a nationally-accredited medical assisting degree program.

“Now that the program is up and running, it's self-sustaining,” says Joyce Judy, president of Community College of Vermont. 

Judy says CCV also created digital marketing and applied business practices programs with the 2011 grant – and both are sustaining themselves through tuition.

The grants are used to design programs and not for faculty salaries or student tuition. Judy says community colleges were singled out in the President’s initiative because they’re more affordable and accessible, especially for people who can’t attend college full time.

“We see ourselves very much as the glue or the conduit between the students and a good paying job,” she says.

Now an additional $2.4 million grant will give CCV the opportunity to create several additional programs. 

What the programs will be is still up in the air, but this time Judy says they will include training for manufacturing jobs. She says it will take some work to attract students to that kind of program.

“One of the things I’ve been saying to the manufacturers that we’ve been working with is, 'You guys have to spread the word that manufacturing is alive and well in Vermont,'” she says. “The word on the street is manufacturing is dead in Vermont.”

Unlike with the earlier grant, CCV will work closely with Vermont Technical College.

“The manufacturing technology is something that we’ve been looking at for some time,” says Dan Smith, VTC’s interim president.

Job training is the idea behind the grant, but it will also create more pathways for students to move from CCV to Vermont Tech. 

That could be a lifeline for the college, which has struggled with deficits due to declining enrollment. 

“We’re not only serving the state of Vermont, but it will be good for Vermont Tech as an institution,” he says.

Smith says declining numbers in students graduating from Vermont high schools and low state financial support for higher education continue to make it difficult to reverse enrollment trends at VTC.