U.S. Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh Stresses Community College Role in Creating Career Pathways



By: David Conner
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) Receives National Education Service Award; Bryce McKibben Wins Government Relations Award

“Community colleges are essential to our administration’s vision of building a more inclusive economy,” Walsh said during Tuesday’s keynote session.

To that end, Walsh has selected Dr. Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College in his native Boston, to chair the Labor Department’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, which was relaunched last year.

Walsh described Boston’s Building Pathways pre-apprenticeship program, which has provided more than 600 people with careers in the building trades, as one model for the Department’s efforts, which are focusing on extending apprenticeship programs to a broader range of industries.

Walsh repeatedly stressed the importance of inclusive career pathways. With historic job growth—nearly 6.7 million new jobs since President Biden took office and the more than $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed into law expected to create even more, according to Walsh—“we need to make sure we create pathways and opportunities into those jobs, because historically people have been left out,” he said. “We can’t let that happen this time.”

While the administration’s Build Back Better agenda has stalled, Walsh stressed the importance of support for community colleges at all levels. “Investments have to happen in community colleges,” he said. “The task we have in front of us can’t be done without [them].”

Also Tuesday, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) was presented with the 2022 National Education Service Award during the National Capital Banquet. As chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Neal was instrumental in the inclusion of the Tax-Free Pell Grant Act, which would prevent students from being taxed on the portion of their Pell award which exceeds tuition costs, in the Build Back Better Act passed by the House this fall. He was also instrumental in securing $1.2 billion in funding for a potential successor to the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training Grants (TAACCT) in proposed legislation. 

Bryce McKibben, senior director of policy and advocacy at the Hope Center and a former senior policy advisor for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and ACCT staffer, was presented with the 2022 Government Relations Award. In his role supporting Murray on the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions (HELP) Committee, McKibben played a key role in ensuring passage of key community college priorities such as Year-Round Pell, Second Chance Pell, and ensuring that community colleges received a fair formula for HEERF funding.

More than 700 community college leaders are attending the first Community College National Legislative Summit to meet in Washington, D.C., since 2020 this Feb. 6-9.

NLS Day 3: Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) Stresses Progress on Community College Agenda; Rural Community College Day Connects Institutions With Federal Resources

Described as the only former state workforce system leader in Congress, Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) stressed the importance of community colleges in economic recovery efforts during the 2022 Community College National Legislative Summit’s closing keynote session Wednesday.

“Community colleges are the locus of opportunity for people in our country,” Levin said. 

Levin described progress on key community college priorities over the past year, including short-term Pell grants, tuition-free community college, and addressing the student debt crisis. Despite legislative setbacks, Levin echoed comments made by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, and U.S. Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh earlier in the week, stating clearly his intention to advance the community college agenda going forward.

“We are serious about it—we’re going to fight to pass this legislation in the future,” he said. “We’re going to get this done. It’s just too important.”

Along with encouraging more community college leaders to run for Congress, Levin urged continued advocacy as the country continues to rebound from the pandemic. “There is no way we will get these bills across the finish line without your advocacy and your help,” he said.  “Community colleges need to play a huge role here, and America needs to see the role you are playing.”

Also Wednesday, representatives from the White House, the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture, and the Appalachian Regional Commission outlined resources and opportunities available to rural colleges during a Rural Community College Day co-sponsored by ACCT, AACC and the Rural Community College Alliance (RCCA) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The presence of federal representatives from multiple departments speaks to the Biden Administration’s focus on rural America as a key driver of an equitable economic recovery and the potential of community colleges to serve as hubs and connectors in their regions, speakers said.  

“All of these people are vested in your success, but the biggest advocate for community colleges is in the White House,” added Michelle Asha Cooper, acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education.

For more information about the NLS from event participants 

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About ACCT

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond. For more information, go to www.acct.org. Follow ACCT on Twitter @CCTrustees.