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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dingell, Williams Praise WCC Efforts to Fill IT Skills Gap

A $2.9 million grant WCC received is the kind of investment that will drive the nation forward, said Jay Williams, executive director of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers. He made the comment to area business leaders during a visit to WCC Oct. 1. The grant is from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Initiative.

“It is important because of the opportunities it provides to those who are unemployed, underemployed, and veterans,” said Williams, who singled out the individuals who will benefit initially from WCC’s program that centers on IT skills. “There are hundreds of thousands of jobs going unfilled today because the workforce does not have the right skills sets necessary to fill them. When we raise the skills of our workers we build stronger communities. And when we build stronger communities we build a stronger nation.”

“Here we are seeing an extraordinary need met,” said U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who also attended. “WCC has begun to revamp our whole educational process in this country. What we see today is a part of that beginning. We’re going to find people who need jobs. We’re going to motivate them, incentivize them, and see to it that they have the education they need and that they can find a pathway into where we need them, so that they can provide the services and jobs we need.”

The grant gives WCC the seed money necessary to develop new online and blended classes for the IT industry, which is facing a critical shortage of skilled workers. With it, WCC will build a dynamic, interconnected learning environment—the classroom of tomorrow.

“During our strategic planning process we asked employers to tell us what kind of training they needed so that we could design it,” said WCC President Rose B. Bellanca. “Up to this point, we have only been able to plan for it. This grant allows us to make it happen.”

Academic programs will be designed in two career areas: software development for Java and network and systems administration for Microsoft and Linux/Unix platforms.

“Technology plays a huge role in what we do at Quicken Loans,” said Jamie Hamilton, vice president of software engineering and a partner in the grant. “This grant will help develop software development talent for us and is the second initiative that Quicken Loans and WCC have collaborated on. Our first was IT in the D, a consortium of colleges and businesses trying to fill the gap and develop IT talent in the southeast Michigan region.”

Quicken Loans, Google, The Advisory Board Company, and MyBuys, as well as Ann Arbor SPARK and the Workforce Intelligence Network IT Council, will assist WCC in identifying skills and competencies, defining program strategy and goals, and mapping out program design. They also have committed to provide internships and mentoring as well as to hire qualified participants who successfully complete the program.

“Developing the skills of our regional workforce is an economic imperative,” said Tim Marshall, chair of the Ann Arbor SPARK Board of Directors. “This grant awarded to WCC is good news for our community. The programs will be business focused and provide training for jobs that are going unfilled in our community right now. New hires will be prepared to contribute immediately to a company’s growth and the economic growth of Ann Arbor.”

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