U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was in Connecticut Friday, bringing a two-fold message to the state’s community colleges. She promoted the $12 million the administration has invested in new programs here, but as a prominent Latina, she also spoke about the importance of training the Latino workforce.
Hilda Solis came to Connecticut bearing gifts. Connecticut was one of the states to benefit from the latest round of grants to the nation’s community colleges. Solis says her boss, President Obama has a goal of helping two million people to obtain credentials from a community college in coming years.
"They're accessible, the cost of education at a community college is lower. With his efforts to put more financial aid and also workstudy programs - all of these resources that are available, especially for returning GI's that can use the GI bill to go to a community college, we think we can help provide preparation for an adequately trained workforce."
The federal money will help seven community colleges in the state establish new courses in health and life sciences. Solis says the grants will foster collaborations with employers in a serious attempt to bridge tha skills gap so evident during the recession and in the years since.
"We did have many people that did have good qualified credentials for different things, but they were not the things that were marketable, or that employers wanted, So we have to fine tune that, and that's what our effort is, to make sure we have a better fit, so that those three million jobs that we always hear about, or the mismatch that goes on -- we're starting to meet and bridge that gap."
Her first stop was Capital Community College in Hartford, where Dean of Academic Affairs Marianne Afleck says they’re preparing new certifications in health information technology and health information management.
"With the passage of the high tech act, all medical records will be going into an electronic format. And there will be a tremendous need for skilled workers, both on the technical level, and moving up to the managerial level."
She says in an effort to improve the accessibility of the qualifications, they’ll be offered both at the college and online. Capital has a high concentration of Latino students, and Solis also took the opportunity to host a forum on the challenges for Latino students and new graduates.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra says the visit sheds light on ways to improve the future of Latinos in the workforce.
"Given our high levels of unemployment and our need to put the Latino community back to work again, this is a perfect opportunity to get a perspective from the administration as to what are the strategies, what can be done. And the fact that she's here at this venue, it's the perfect place to have that conversation, to see how we can leverage our community colleges, and our education institutions to promote better employment opportunities for the Latino community."
Also on the panel with Solis, Mariano Cardoso, a Capital Community College graduate and undocumented student, who last year won a long battle to be allowed to stay and study in the US, where he’s lived since the age of two.
"One of the things that I want to make known is that I'm not the only one. And so there's a few thousand students and a few more that are family that are undocumented. We're still here and we still want to achieve our goals and we still want to be professionals, we still want to be engineers, doctors, and we still need everyone's help."
Cardoso’s now studying engineering at Central Connecticut State University.