The Trump administration’s rhetoric for more manpower and skills training increased on Thursday, with the president calling for a name change of community colleges.
President Trump’s call for more vocational training (quote and video are below) reflects statements he made during Tuesday’s State of the Union, in which He called for greater national investment in workforce development. But community college leaders were quick to point out that their institutions already offer the skills or workforce training programs Trump highlighted, and more.
âThe mission of community colleges is very complex and the president tries to simplify our mission into a sound sample,â said Karen Stout, CEO of Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit group that focuses on university. completion in the two-year sector. âMany of us have very strong vocational components in our mission and do the work he describes. We work closely with employers in our regions, with unions and other learning organizations to meet the demands of the labor market.
Community colleges also provide transfer opportunities to four-year institutions to meet student aspirations and the labor market needs of their communities, Stout said.
Trump spoke of the need for more vocational training programs in carpentry and masonry. However, Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, for example, offers a masonry program and apprenticeship programs where students can earn an associate’s degree. And Seattle Central College offers a carpentry program where students can also earn an associate’s degree.
We can open more vocational schools because we want every American to reach their God-given full potential. Vocational schools. Today you have community colleges and you all have – when I was young we had vocational schoolsâ¦ we should have vocational schools. You learn mechanics, you learn masonry and carpentry and all those things. We don’t have many left. And I think the word “professional” is a much better word than in many cases community college. Many people do not know what a community college means or stands for. – President Donald Trump
Despite Trump’s rhetoric, his actions have led to further reductions in workforce training, said Andy Van Kleunen, chief executive of the National Skills Coalition.
“We appreciate that during the State of the Union President Trump called for greater national investment in workforce development, vocational training and vocational schools,” Van Kleunen said in a written statement. âBut talking doesn’t cost a lot. Ensuring that we have the most skilled workforce in the world is not. Sadly, to date, the president’s agencies have either called for drastic cuts to manpower programs or refused to spend the training resources Congress has already given them.
Van Kleunen said Trump’s infrastructure proposal last summer promised to train a million new apprentices, but the most recent version of that infrastructure plan does not mention apprentices.
Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College in New York City, said she agreed with Trump that few people understand the vital role community colleges play. But she said most jobs require a mix of job skills that go beyond the ânarrow training programsâ that emerged during the industrial age.
“President Trump is correct that community colleges are professional if by vocation he refers to the professions of engineer, data analyst, entrepreneur, health care provider and teacher,” he said. Mellow said in an email. âMore than half of all students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree attended community college as part of their school career. If the president can help more people understand the central role of community colleges in the social and economic fabric of our nation, that would be a positive step. “
Community college isn’t just about vocational training, said Rosa Garcia, senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a non-partisan nonprofit that advocates for low-income people.
âWe’re concerned that some vocational schools are targeting low-income students, students of colorâ¦ and preparing them for jobs that may not exist in the economy,â Garcia said. âUniversity is more than preparing people for jobs. It is also about preparing students to participate fully in the democracy of our country.
Regarding changing the community college nickname at institutions, Stout said the names of many two-year institutions are decided by their local communities and the purpose they serve in their regions.
âIn Michigan, the name of the college is a locally determined decision,â Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association and the Community College Baccalaureate Association, said in an email. “Plus, there are both constitutional and statutory considerations for something like this to happen here.”
Because two-year colleges offer more than just vocational education, such as dual-enrollment programs with K-12 schools, catering to industry employment needs and offering community-based activities, changing their name could confusing, said Hansen.
âThe name ‘vocational school‘ would be misleading and inappropriate for at least all of Michigan’s community colleges and possibly the majority of them across the country,â Hansen said.
There is one state that has seen a big change in removing the word “community” from the names of its two-year institutions: Florida. Of the state’s 28 two-year colleges, only four have “community” in the name. And on Wednesday, the state House of Representatives approved the removal of the community description from Florida Keys Community College and North Florida Community College.
But the elimination of the word “community” from the names of state colleges was not due to a greater focus on vocational education. Rather, it reflects the fact that two-year institutions in Florida are now offering more bachelor’s degrees.
American Association of Community Colleges officials declined to comment.
But the Association for Vocational and Technical Education late Thursday issued a statement which included “opinion / fact” breakdowns challenging Trump’s remarks, sentence by sentence.
“We are concerned about the president’s remarks which distort the nature” of vocational and technical education, the statement said. âMillions of high school students are enrolled in thousands of CTE programs that prepare students for careers not only in traditional skilled trades, but also in nursing, coding, business, engineering and more. . CTE delivery systems vary to meet the needs of each locality, and community colleges play a vital role in these systems. From duplicate high school students to mature students seeking new degrees and careers, Americans value and trust the nation’s community college system.