Commentary by U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
We are all concerned about the economy and jobs and its important to keep in mind that many jobs in the future will build on innovative, new technologies and advances that are now being developed, particularly in the health care and clean energy fields. As we work to become less dependent on foreign energy, we need workers who can be part of a growing alternative energy industry. And, as we work to bring 32 million Americans into the health care system, we need hundreds of thousands of new workers who can help provide care.
All this is good news, but it also means we need to make sure Americans have the training and skills they need for the jobs of the future. Community colleges are providing the education, skills and training that are needed for an emerging job market, often at half the cost of public, four-year universities.
I applaud President Obama for recently holding a White House Summit on Community Colleges. At the Summit, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joseph Biden and a community college professor, called community colleges one of Americas best kept secrets. Dr. Biden is so right.
Maryland has an outstanding community college network. There are now 16 community colleges located throughout Maryland offering courses on 23 different campuses. And, Marylanders are using our community college system. This fall, enrollment in Maryland community colleges increased to approximately 150,000 students, representing an 8.5 percent increase over 2009.
Often working in partnership with employers to meet the needs of communities, Marylands community colleges are the leading providers of workforce training, including classes for more than 143 professional licensure and certifications that are directly connected to jobs. During these tough economic times, community colleges are on the frontlines in helping prepare people for jobs that pay a living wage.
I am a long-time supporter of our community college system because it provides important learning opportunities that lead to jobs, helping to ensure that Marylanders have a future. In May, I joined Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congressman John Sarbanes in announcing $1 million in federal funding to build the new Mid-Maryland Community College Allied Healthcare Education Center in Mt. Airy, Md.
The Center is based on a partnership with Frederick Community College, Howard Community College and Carroll Community College that will provide training for up to 500 students a year in the health care industry. Students will be able to receiving training in allied health occupations at any of the three campuses at the low cost of a community college education.
There are many other examples of how community colleges are helping to meet the educational needs of communities. Recently, community colleges in both Garrett and Allegany counties received substantial federal funding to upgrade computer labs and provide technical training for jobs of the future.
Our nations economic future depends on an educated workforce that can do the work of tomorrow. Community colleges are a key part of ensuring our future by providing Americans with the education and skills they need for jobs of the future and at an affordable price.