Rep. Barbara Lee eyes manufacturing jobs
The gears were turning in Laney's Machine Tech Department Oct. 10 when Rep. Barbara Lee spoke with students and staff from across the Peralta district on the falling U.S. unemployment rate and the role community colleges play in ensuring a well-trained and knowledgeable workforce.
"You're what it's all about," said Lee. "The agenda for [California's 9th district] is to create jobs and economic opportunity so you can achieve the American Dream."
Lee focused on a $5.4 million grant awarded to the district from the Department of Labor for workforce development and retraining.
Citing a recent jobs report that showed the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent with the addition of 114,000 jobs, Lee called the report "encouraging," but added, "We still have a lot to do," including getting Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, which includes job-training programs and tax breaks for small businesses and working families.
The congresswoman praised Laney's bio-manufacturing program for its training of skilled workers for the biotechnology industry, which runs along the I-80 corridor. "What's most important is that students have access to real jobs and opportunity, but some in Washington are doing anything but," she said.
Peralta trustee Abel Guillen thanked Lee for "bringing in the bucks," and announced a "renaissance of manufacturing in Oakland" that will get people back to work.
Of the success stories from Laney's bio-manufacturing program, Peter Crabtree, dean of Career Technology Education, pointed to Deborah Long, a former student who now works for IntegenX in Pleasanton, where she manufactures medical devices.
Long worked for 30 years in the telecommunications field before being laid off. After hearing about Laney's bio-manufacturing program from California's Workforce Investment Board, she decided to shift careers and acquire new skills. After graduating on Sept. 14, Long began work 12 days later on Sept. 26 at IntegenX.
Now Longs says she can "return to the workforce and get back on track."
Louis Quindlen, chair of the Machine Technology Department, points to industry partnerships and support the grant will help produce. He cites five student interns currently working for East Bay MUD, and spoke of emerging partnerships with San Francisco Water, Shell Refining, and Dow Chemical.
His goals for the funds include establishing apprenticeships throughout the Bay Area, writing new curriculum, and updating equipment.
The $14.9 million grant received by the district includes a consortium of 10 East Bay community colleges, California State University East Bay, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Grant funds will go to support the "Design it-Build it-Ship it" program that will develop certificates across all the colleges in the consortium, and create career transfer pathways to four-year institutions.
As part of the program, Laney will focus on training students in medical device and biotechnology manufacturing, and industrial machining and maintenance.
As for the other Peralta Colleges, College of Alameda will train students in transportation and logistics through its ATLAS program, while Berkeley City College is prioritizing workforce skills and transfers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Merritt College will continue its work in biotechnology and homeland security training.
Rachel Weaver is a Tower staff writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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