In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.
Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:
The pandemic has upended the regional and national economy. Many businesses still claim they are having trouble finding enough skilled workers, and many workers are either reluctant to go back to full-time work due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 or are re-evaluating their career choices. What role should JCCC play in developing Johnson County’s post-pandemic workforce?
Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:
As I mentioned in my answer to the last question, one of the best ways to get people into jobs is to help them receive their education in whatever way we can. One thing that is standing in the way of this, in my personal experience as a student at the college, is accessibility. I’ve said since the beginning of my campaign that we need to find fiscally responsible ways to increase access to scholarships and lower the cost of tuition. I have had classes with folks who work 40 hours a week, folks who are single parents, folks who are struggling to support themselves while also attending classes trying to receive their education. We need to make sure that JCCC continues to provide a quality education for everyone, and that we do it in a manner that makes an education accessible to every person possible, regardless of their life situations.
There are two important reasons JCCC will continue to play an important role in the economy of Johnson County. First and foremost, the college ensures we have a ready and resilient workforce. Businesses won’t come to Johnson County if they can’t find the skilled workers to join their organizations. In many cases, Johnson County businesses come to JCCC to partner with educators to develop training specific to their needs. That resource has been a proven winner for businesses needing to re-train their workers. This is especially important since the disruption caused by COVID-19, but other disruptions (i.e., artificial intelligence, climate change, etc.) are on the horizon and we should be working with our local business partners to make sure we are preparing for those shifts in the marketplace.
Secondly, JCCC prepares students to be engaged and responsible citizens in their communities. Communities thrive when citizens share a connectedness that can only be realized by learning to understand different perspectives and points-of-view. JCCC provides those opportunities to students through classroom participation and extra-curricular activities. Both the worker and the citizen are nurtured at JCCC.
Lee Cross (incumbent)
The College should continue the half century of partnership we have with our region. We should continue to invest in our local schools, chambers of commerce, medical community, churches, and local businesses. By building relationships, we can begin to forge partnerships and alliances that are needed to secure jobs for our students.
The goal of the college should be to prepare students for their future. This means making sure that our curriculum provides the correct tools and realistic skill set employers are wanting. We currently have some classes that are outdated that need to be updated. Partnering with local businesses is the best way to make sure that we are staying relevant and on the cutting edge.
Paul Snider (incumbent)
JCCC is best positioned to train the leaders of tomorrow. We have an excellent Continuing Education staff that continually works with employers to understand workforce needs and provide training for certificates. I strongly support recent investments in the College’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) building and programs that have allowed the College to greatly expand needed welding, electrical, HVAC, and other programs where careers are available.
As good as the College is now it has to get better to meet the needs of the community. Business leaders in Johnson County would gladly participate in discussions to help Johnson County prosper and I’m well suited to help facilitate as necessary.
Wayne H. Sandberg
Did not respond.
Yes, JCCC should partner with local businesses to help develop the post- and during- pandemic workforce with regard to the economic changes and future challenges.
JCCC should convene three groups, 1) large employers in the area, 2) small local businesses, and 3)potential employees (those who have opted out of the workplace & students), to have an open conversation to brainstorm and create some plans to work as partners to reevaluate the skills and structure of work. The first step is to understand why the economy has changed and evaluate each factor individually and how it intersects with other factors.
JCCC should continue to develop and renew relationships with industry, and community resources to ensure that our curriculum stays relevant and agile for the developing and changing workforce. The college and businesses can co-create curriculum and apprenticeships with specific industries, so that we become a major pipeline of great employees to them.
We need to continue to help students learn and earn. Some don’t have the luxury to only attend classes, and the ability to earn within their major while pursuing a degree may help with retention.
Industrial technology jobs are plentiful. For example, Waste Management has over 100 diesel mechanics jobs unfilled. Wiese Corporation has a similar number of vacant forklift technician jobs. JCCC should work with industry to expand their skilled trades programs. It’s a matter of inviting collaborative industry members to develop relevant programs and obtain their sponsorship to reduce startup costs. Technology jobs are also in high demand. In this area the college should collaborate with talent management firms and employers to develop curricula to better address workforce gaps. Commercial freight lines need drivers unlike any time previous. These programs take only 4-9 weeks to complete. The commercial drivers license program at JCCC needs to expand to respond to the market’s demand for these roles. All these jobs are highly compensated which will create a strong incentive to attend JCCC (addresses enrollment decline problem) and return to the workforce in a relatively short time frame e.g., completion certificate in 18 months.
On Thursday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:
JCCC has opted to keep tuition steady during the pandemic. The current rate is $94 per credit hour for Johnson County residents. Revenue from tuition makes up less than one-fifth of the college’s total budget. Should the college consider raising tuition or lowering it? Why? And how would doing either of those things impact JCCC’s budget?