Press "Enter" to skip to content

Grant funds training for high-wage, high-demand jobs

Washtenaw Community College announced receipt of a $2M grant to fund its new “Advance Ypsi” initiative. The program will provide educational assistance to high school students and adults in Ypsilanti, with the goal of eventually placing program participants in high-wage, high-demand jobs. These include positions in “mobility-focused transportation, manufacturing and IT sectors.” The minimum salary benchmark is $40,000.

That’s a good start. Hopefully, this motivates WCC to evaluate the rest of its programs and measure them against the same standards. WCC’s catalog could contain dozens of programs that prepare students for high-wage, high-demand jobs. Right now, it doesn’t.

Taking that step would go a long way toward filling WCC’s classrooms, but for some reason, at no time in the past twelve years has WCC done this. The focus has never been on the students, or what the students need. The college has chosen to focus on what employers want, or what the college thinks employers want. Even when that includes minimal training and an inexplicable focus on certificates over degrees, which enables employers to devalue WCC graduates.

There are lots of opportunities to create programs that enable students to fill high-wage, high demand jobs in technology, healthcare, manufacturing, clean energy, skilled trades, agriculture, construction, and finance to name a few. These opportunities have been here all along. But instead of looking for ways to make the most of what we have – and we have a lot in Washtenaw County – the WCC administration has been talking about building a hotel, using the same broken model it uses for the Health and Fitness Center.

Our tax dollars could also fund training for high-wage, high demand jobs

Washtenaw County residents don’t need a publicly funded hotel. (Or a gym for that matter.) And we don’t need a Community College administration that wastes countywide educational resources on non-educational endeavors. Especially when – as the College’s own press release points out – poverty is a significant factor in certain areas of the county. We need educational opportunities that enable Washtenaw County residents to access high-wage, high-demand jobs. Period. That’s it. That’s what we need.

If it takes outside foundations to come into Southeast Michigan and drop millions of dollars to get our community college administration engaged, fine. But remember that the residents of Washtenaw County drop 30 times as much money on WCC every year. We provide sufficient money to fund this level of investment through our property taxes. But our money gets misdirected to publicly funded, privately operated gyms and Vice Presidents. And the Board of Trustees, whose job it is to make sure that doesn’t happen, instead spends time figuring out which parking lot should get the Starbucks and the Boost Mobile store.

Hopefully, WCC will demonstrate more accountability to these foundations than they do to the people of Washtenaw County.

Whatever works, I guess.

Photo Credit: Ziggy Liloia , via Flickr