As Prepared For Delivery:
Thank you so much, Jen [Worth], for the kind introduction.
I am so grateful to you and your team at the American Association of Community Colleges for everything you’re doing to ensure that we’re preparing young people for the future and workers for in-demand, good-paying, high-quality jobs.
Community colleges play a critical role in our higher education system and the backbone of our system of training workers for the jobs of tomorrow. And you truly are the lynchpin of whether our country will meet the moment on some of the most critical issues of our time.
We also have a community college educator in the White House. Throughout her time as First Lady and Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden has been a champion for community colleges and has traveled across the country to see the good work you all are doing to help prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
In this moment, President Biden’s historic Investing in America agenda creates the means by which we’ll achieve major goals for the country.
Transforming our economy by massively increasing renewable energy sources all to fight climate change through the Inflation Reduction Act.
Ensure we maintain our innovation edge through the CHIPS Act.
Modernize our aging infrastructure through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
But none of these goals will be achieved if we don’t have the workforce we need.
And that is why your work is so crucial. While people like to say, “if you build it, they will come,” the truth is that if we don’t have the workers, we can’t build it. And that would mean real opportunities lost—not just for workers, but for our economy and our country.
But fortunately, we are lucky to have a great training system in our community colleges.
Jobs that will form the backbone of the middle class for the future—like semiconductor technicians, precision machinists, and robotics technicians, many of which don’t require a four-year degree.
This is also a moment to have a training system that brings everyone into these good-paying, middle-class jobs.
A middle class that includes people of color, single moms, people with disabilities, and others who have too often been left behind.
So, the Investing in America agenda is a once-in-a-generation opportunity not only to transform our infrastructure, energy systems, and economy—but also to transform our education and workforce systems.
We can make it a transformation away from the old “train and pray” model to a new era of “partner, train, and place.”
As the anchor of our workforce policy and America’s largest provider of workforce training, community colleges are absolutely critical to the transformation to “partner, train, and place”:
Partner with labor unions, with employers, and with us in the White House.
Train with high-quality approaches that deliver value to students.
Place students by ensuring programs lead to good-quality jobs in the community.
That means we need to build connections—connections to workers, connections to employers, and connections to unions to ensure your students are getting the skills they need.
I want to talk about a few ways the Biden-Harris Administration is catalyzing and supporting this transformation.
How community colleges are at the heart of this transformation.
And how you—community college leaders on the front lines in every community—can partner with this Administration to diversify and strengthen America’s talent pipeline.
First, community colleges can play a vital role in the development of workforce development programs that truly work.
Like registered apprenticeships and sector strategies.
Since the start of his Administration, this President has invested more than $440 million in Registered Apprenticeship programs, the gold standard earn-and-learn pathway.
Apprentices have an average starting salary of $80,000. That is a ticket to the middle class.
We’ve also invested $700 million in sector strategies—workforce collaborations that bring together multiple types of partners in a sector to develop high-quality training programs.
Take Project QUEST in San Antonio. This program brings together Alamo Colleges District’s five colleges with community-based groups, local employers, and other partners to deliver supportive services and high-quality preparation connected to in-demand healthcare and IT jobs. Independent research found that Project QUEST raises long-term earnings by 18 percent.
The Administration has made historic investments in these partnership efforts, including through the Commerce Department’s Good Jobs Challenge and the Labor Department’s Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs Grants.
Research proves these sector partnership models really work, producing lasting earnings gains of up to 34 percent for workers who historically have been left behind.
Furthermore, many community colleges already run or partner on Registered Apprenticeship programs.
As part of their programs, apprentices generally complete both 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000-plus hours of on-the-job training.
Community colleges often provide that classroom training.
And some of the strongest Registered Apprenticeship programs are partnerships between unions and community colleges.
The union provides the training equipment, facilities, and connection to the on-the-job training.
The college provides the instruction that offers credit toward a degree.
This kind of partnership is more common in construction, but we want to make this model much more widespread in other occupations.
Many of you in this room are already part of these efforts. Thank you.
But I want to encourage more community college leaders in this room to start or expand Registered Apprenticeship programs—including by working with unions.
To build on this fantastic track record, I’m proud to announce that, over the next few weeks, the Administration will announce additional evidence-based investments in community colleges.
These grants will help community colleges “partner, train, and place” students and workers.
As part of this effort, tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will announce the winners of the Department’s first-ever $25 million Career Connected High Schools Grant competition.
Grantees will pilot evidence-based strategies to better align the last two years of high school with the first two years of postsecondary education.
For example, that means:
- Increasing student access to dual enrollment and early college programs, so high school students can take college courses and earn credit prior to getting their high school diploma;
- Providing transportation so students can get to high-quality work-based learning opportunities; or
- Developing new high-quality career technical education programs in high-growth fields—like semiconductors, biotechnology, and clean energy.
Investments like these are breaking down silos between our K-12, higher education, and workforce systems.
And thus, these programs can help more young Americans access good-paying jobs in in-demand fields.
Then, this spring, the Department of Labor expects to award its new round of Strengthening Community College Training Grants.
These grants increase community colleges’ capacity to provide equitable access to high-quality training for in-demand industries that meets employers’ and students’ needs.
This builds on last year’s awards, which supported healthcare training at Chippewa Community College in Wisconsin; information technology training at Lorain Community College in Ohio; and advanced manufacturing training at Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma.
Representatives from these community colleges are here today. Let’s give them a round of applause.
But building a skilled, diverse workforce isn’t just about investments.
It’s about seizing those investments to create momentum, partnerships, and commitments that make long-term change.
Last spring, First Lady Jill Biden announced our two large initiatives to do just that.
The first initiative is Workforce Hubs.
The Administration announced these new Workforce Hubs in five cities across the nation where the Investing in America agenda is catalyzing significant public and private investments.
In Augusta, Baltimore, Columbus, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh, the Administration is partnering with state and local officials, employers, labor unions, community colleges, and others to help ensure a diverse and skilled workforce that can meet the demand for labor driven by our investments.
In each Hub, key partners are anchoring these efforts in the local community’s context and providing training in key sectors, from semiconductors to the skilled construction trades.
These efforts are not only strengthening the five Hub cities.
They’re also creating models the Administration will seek to replicate across the country.
They’re providing proofs of concept on “partner, train, and place.”
Community colleges are crucial players in all of the Workforce Hubs, expanding high-quality workforce programs, allowing workers to graduate at low cost or debt-free, and providing credentials for high-quality jobs.
For example, Columbus State Community College is our “anchor institution” in the Columbus Workforce Hub.
In July, Columbus State President David Harrison announced the Hub would quadruple the number of students trained for engineering technology jobs over the next five years.
And Columbus State announced a new certificate program for semiconductor technician roles, developed in partnership with Intel, which they recently launched.
I’m looking forward to speaking with David about Columbus State’s critical role in the Columbus Workforce Hub on our upcoming panel.
The other initiative I’d like to discuss is the Administration’s Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Sprint.
Launched in October, the Sprint is an intensive drive to build a diverse, skilled pipeline of workers for good jobs in advanced manufacturing, including union jobs.
It is a nationwide call to action to build a diverse, skilled workforce.
More than 30 community colleges have already joined the Sprint—along with dozens of employers, unions, and other partners.
There are multiple ways community colleges are participating:
Here in Louisiana, Nunez Community College is partnering with NASA and Boeing to make its Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Training program into a Registered Apprenticeship.
The American Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers, and United Federation of Teachers, launched a historic $4 million partnership with Micron and New York Governor Kathy Hochul to develop an Advanced Technology Framework for students interested in semiconductor jobs. This program will be piloted in 10 school districts starting next fall.
And the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute, led by Amanda [Ballantyne], has begun working with partners to develop a universal pathway curriculum for advanced manufacturing.
In just three months since the Administration kicked off the Sprint, 4,700 new apprentices have been hired in advanced manufacturing occupations.
So, there’s a lot to celebrate—and more work to do, in partnership with all of you.
We want to hear from you about the great efforts you’re currently leading.
We encourage you to continue to take advantage of the new resources the President is providing to community colleges—and we’re working hard to expand those resources further.
And we encourage you to commit to the Sprint by expanding high-quality, equitable education and training efforts in advanced manufacturing.
There are multiple ways to get involved:
- Expanding high-quality programs for in-demand advanced manufacturing jobs;
- Partnering with labor unions to create or expand Registered Apprenticeship programs that also offer credit toward a degree;
- Joining with local high school career and technical education programs to support underrepresented students on their pathway to postsecondary education and good, well-paying jobs;
- Providing supportive services—like child care and transportation assistance—to help underserved students succeed in training;
- And more.
That’s how we’ll seize this historic Investing in America opportunity on behalf of students, workers, and communities.
You know, the President believes that the way to grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up. Not the top down.
I can’t think of institutions that better represent middle out economics than community colleges.
Thank you for what you’re doing to ensure that America seizes the opportunity of this moment to build an economy that grows for all of us, not just some of us.
With that, I’m happy to join our panel.
 What Works Clearinghouse, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. (2021, November). Project QUEST (Quality Employment through Skills Training), https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/InterventionReports/WWC_ProjectQUEST_IR-report.pdf