What is Workforce Development?
From Wikipedia: "Workforce development, an American approach to economic development, attempts to enhance a region's economic stability and prosperity by focusing on people rather than businesses."
Municipal governments typically offer workforce development programs while missing the incredible range of programming available at Oakton Community College, including Associate's Degrees, Certificate programs, as well as State Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) approved programs.
One of my goals as an Oakton Community College Trustee will be to ensure that any governing body looking to expand workforce development has a direct connection to Oakton and a broad knowledge of the programs available there.
My second goal as trustee is to identify and address barriers to accessing Oakton's programming. For instance, all full-time students enrolled in the City Colleges of Chicago are offered a free "U-Pass" on the CTA. Students attending Oakton Community College deserve no less. At the very least, I would like to see a program that connects the municipal governments in District 535, PACE, and Oakton - possibly using PACE's existing vanpool service.
Sometimes, a nimble approach is needed to address barriers: for instance, not everyone can access Oakton's online classes. There could be several ways to approach this issue: partnering with local libraries to offer a study space closer to home and closer to other students who may provide support; offering wifi hotspots that can be borrowed by students who qualify, or connecting students with the low-cost internet options available via Comcast and AT&T to those who qualify. Individualizing an approach to a problem will help increase access.
Of course, we don't really know what the barriers are to accessing Oakton - the only way to uncover them is to reach out to the community and ask - so, making sure anyone referring students to Oakton is charged to keep track of the reasons why their clients may choose not to do so. Making sure there is an extensive exit survey for students who drop out would also be helpful.
Job Training Skills
I'd like to bring more attention to the job training programs and certificates available at Oakton. These range from the expected, like heallthcare to science certificates in nanotechnology. More importantly, Oakton can offer a path to a lifelong career: my husband started his career as an Evanston Firefighter with a single-class certificate as an Emergency Medical Technician. Leveraging that certificate, he got a job as an EMT-Basic with a private ambulance company. He then continued his education through Oakton with a 9-month program in partnership with St. Francis Hospital. Having your paramedic license can be a requirement in some fire departments, but in Evanston, it gives you "preference points," that put you ahead of other candidates. He has been working at the Evanston Fire Department since 2005, and it all started with a single class at Oakton Community College.
I want everyone in District 535 to have the same access to a stable career and quality of life, and I believe it is there for them at Oakton Community College.