Provost and Vice President of Division of Learning Rodney Redmond
Provost and Vice President of Division of Learning Rodney Redmond

By Provost and Vice President of Division of Learning Rodney Redmond

LA PLATA, Md. – Growing up I frequently heard the phrase, “There is dignity in all work.” And though I grew up in a place where the educated were far outnumbered by those who had not completed a formal education, it was still highly valued. Education became a kind of passport to a higher paying job and better career opportunities. What was frequently missing from the conversation was how to connect education to better career opportunities. Community colleges, though in existence less than two miles from my house, were not part of the equation for many of us. They were not seen as places that supported the notion of stronger education and stronger careers leading to stronger communities with more solid economical foundations.

Those were my early years of growing up in Mississippi. As I grew and maneuvered through levels of the educational systems, I discovered the true mission of community colleges — to meet the needs of the community it serves in all things, in all ways possible. Hence, a community college education that could land me in a childcare business, as a book keeper at the local insurance company, or as a registered nurse was just as valuable as one that would give me the skills to be a certified automobile mechanic, a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician, an electrician, or a welder. Regardless of career path, education for that career path became a desired route to greater economic stability for many. Four-year institutions were not providing skilled labor education, leaving the opportunity to community colleges. Community colleges stepped up and expanded its transfer mission to include workforce development training.  This brought on engagement with local business and industry to understand their needs. They needed development of their current employees, training to increase the skill levels of potential employees, and training that would support continued growth and development of their industries. As the community college expanded its mission, some thought it had become schizophrenic by taking on too much and doing too many things for too many people. However, it was just starting to show what it could become – a stabilizing force within the community.  The comprehensive mission focuses on building partnerships with local business to meet their needs, continuing to teach the first two years of the undergraduate degree for a broad range of programs, and building credential programs that provide needed vocational training for the area.

From here, where do we go and how does today’s community college continue to position itself as a major partner in the American higher education landscape? The answer is multi-fold. Continuing to build the partnerships, working with local business and industry to meet the workforce and economic need is only one avenue. Another avenue is to build capacity to provide economic needs training through grant partnership. These grants provide funding to explore and expand system changes and increase our use of technology to meet workforce needs. This expansion also leads us to build partnerships within our credit and credit-free programs, meeting workforce and transfer needs concurrently. It provides opportunities to develop stackable credentials that can be transported to the workforce or into credit programs that lead to degree completion. The future community college has to be a place where people in all careers have a place for educational attainment. It has to become a place where the learner and the learner’s goals become drivers of what is offered. The comprehensive mission provides a space for learners to set and earn multiple credentials at different times, for different goals, yet serving the needs of the community in workforce and transfer. 

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