Great Bay Community College asks for state support
01/20/2017 by Paul Briand, Seacoastonline
PORTSMOUTH - Great Bay Community College showcased its business and education partnerships - and lobbied for more state funding - at a legislative breakfast Friday.
About a dozen lawmakers from the region attended the breakfast at Great Bay's Pease International Tradeport campus as budget writers in Concord are beginning to craft a new revenue and spending plan for state agencies, including its universities and community colleges.
The breakfast that attracted about 75 people served to state a case for more education funding by demonstrating how the community colleges in general - and Great Bay, in particular - have partnered successfully with businesses, health care providers and manufacturers in the region to train the workforce.
In addition to the business connection, officials cited the community college as a bridge in the education of some students from high school to the state university system.
Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, spoke of the importance of "access to higher education that's aligned to the needs of the community." He said the state's community colleges are committed to a program called "65 By 25" - an effort to have 65 percent of Granite Staters age 25 and older have some form of post-secondary education, from certificates to advanced degrees, by 2025. Gittell said the percentage currently stands at about 55 percent.
"Access is critical," he said. "If we want to achieve 65 By 25 we have to look at that population we don't serve."
He noted with adjustments in staffing and cost reductions, the community college tuition in New Hampshire is still the second highest in the country. "We need increases in state support," he said.
In June, community college system trustees decided to freeze tuition for the current academic year - $200 per credit, which roughly equals $6,000 per year for full-time tuition. Trustees have not raised tuition since 2011 and last year it reduced tuition by 5 percent, following legislators' decision to support the system in the state budget.
The university system, which includes the colleges and universities in Durham, Manchester, Plymouth and Keene, has said it will freeze in-state tuition if it gets an additional $13 million in state funding over the next two years.
Gittell cited a commitment to focusing on a student's "career and purpose" starting in high school, then carrying it forward into the community college system and then, perhaps, to the university level.
"It's better for them to be constantly thinking about what they want to achieve, and we want to make sure those pathways have some alternatives," he said.
Representatives from five businesses participated in a panel discussion about their ties to Great Bay training and apprenticeship programs.
Chris Callahan, vice president of human resources at Exeter Health Resources, said three years ago its Core Physicians group of doctors needed an influx of medical assistants to help cope with requirements of the Affordable Care Act. It worked with GBCC to create a program to fill an immediate need of 20 medical assistants. It has since grown to 60 GBCC-trained assistants.
"It has been incredibly successful," Callahan said. "We've really had a great infusion of professionalism into our medical assistants."
He encouraged legislators in the room to support funding for the community college.
Tara Meulenbroek, head of human resources at Lonza Biologics at the tradeport, shared how it started an apprenticeship program with GBCC 10 years ago to train and hire floor technicians. One of the early apprentices, according to Meulenbroek, is now a supervisor of a capital expansion project at Lonza. That person is one of hundreds of success stories, she said, noting 10 percent of Lonza's workforce is composed of GBCC grads.
Renet Dion, senior manager of human resources at Sig Sauer, the firearms manufacturer at the tradeport, came to GBCC when it needed computer numeric control operators when it wanted to add further machine training for its existing workers. She said she would be looking to the college for additional help following Thursday's announcement that Sig Sauer secured a $580 million contract with the U.S. Army to provide its new generation of handguns.
Sean Hoeing, organizational development specialist at Safran Aerospace Composites in Rochester, spoke of so-called "soft skills" the community college has taught its students, in addition to the composite manufacturing skills at its Rochester campus.
Dan Levesque, apprentice program administrator at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, said GBCC, along with York County Community College in Wells, Maine, helped the shipyard revitalize its dormant apprenticeship program in the late 1990s. Community college teachers go to the shipyard to teach and more than 1,500 apprentices have gone through the program.
"We couldn't do that ourselves," he said.
GBCC President Will Arvelo spoke of academic partnerships with grade schools, high schools, and the state universities, particularly in Durham and Manchester. He cited the community colleges' Running Start program that allows students to simultaneously earn high school and community college credit. That program, in place in 100 schools statewide, includes 17 schools, 71 courses and 771 students associated with Great Bay.
Arvelo also noted Great Bay is serving the needs of 70 companies with either short-term training or long-term programs. "I'm always in conversation with people in the communities about their needs and how we can partner with them," he said.
Arvelo cited new programs, such as an automotive program and an aviation program. "A lot of those programs have come out of conservations with industry," he said.
Legislators in attendance, based on comments and questions, were supportive of the community college's efforts. State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, called the relationship among the grade schools, high schools, community colleges and universities "a huge change" from what it was.
Rep. Norman Major, R-Plaistow, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said, "I've been thrilled with what's been going on here at Great Bay."
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