Editor’s note: Leading up to Labor Day 2015, Secretary Tom Perez is traveling across the country to talk with America's workers, businesses, and state and local leaders about how we can work together to build shared prosperity for a stronger America. Follow him along the way with live updates at www.dol.gov/LaborDay and join the conversation using #LaborDay2015.
For the second stop on his tour, Secretary Perez is at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri, to shine a light on how Department of Labor grants are helping transform how educators, employers and community groups work together to train workers for the region’s in-demand jobs.
The school's business and technology campus provide hands-on training in health care, warehousing, transportation, welding, and computer integrated machining and manufacturing in state-of-the-art labs − all of which have received funding through our community college grants. These programs are designed with multiple entrance and exit points that give students options for training in short increments, reward previous and on-going work experience, and provide opportunities to return to school to gain additional skills and credentials.
Over the past four years, the Labor Department has invested more than $68 million in Missouri’s community colleges.
Bruce Ives is one Missourian who was able to refresh his information technology skills to prepare for a job in the growing field of medical IT.
After being let go from his client services job in October 2014, Bruce and his wife tried to stay afloat. But after losing their house, they decided to move from St. Louis to Kansas City and move in with their daughter’s family.
Bruce (third from left) and his family
While in Kansas City, Bruce discovered the ReBootU program, Missouri’s newest career fast-tracking program for learning computer programming and other information technology skills — skills that are in high demand for jobs available right now. Before the program, Bruce was getting interviews but felt like employers thought he wasn’t up to speed with current technology. He landed phone interviews, but rarely made it to the in-person interview.
The ReBootU program gave him a “foot back in the door” and “value” again. Today, Bruce starts his new job as an IT analyst working at the University of Kansas Hospital making more than $36 per hour.
“The program helped me get my foot back in the door with good companies and let them know that even though I was 60, I still had ‘it’ and wanted to learn. I am so grateful to them for this opportunity of re-developing my skills through classroom training and hands-on work.”
For those still out-of-work and looking for the next opportunity, Bruce says:
“Take every opportunity to continue your education. Whether you're going to use it on the job or not, it shows you're willing to learn new skills and develop new skills in the business world. You can't give up. If you’re in your late 50s or early 60s, you can’t give in.”
Community colleges like Metropolitan Community College are the secret sauce for America’s workforce system. Together with federal partners and communities nationwide, we're helping people get the education and training they need to punch their ticket to the middle class. And training programs like apprenticeships − undervalued for too long as a path to the middle class − can help prepare people for careers in a host of industries. If your plumber or carpenter received apprenticeship training, why not your pharmacy technician or your IT specialist? We want to hear from you: share your story about how you're growing your skills to get ahead.
Stay tuned for more of Secretary Perez’s travels at dol.gov/LaborDay. Next stop: Camden, New Jersey!