Obama's goal is nothing new to GCC

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — President Obama’s call Monday for greater workforce development and training is a goal Glendale Community College has been working on for some time, educators said.

In the last year, the college has been collecting federal grants to fund retraining programs for unemployed workers. One program the grant has helped expand, the Verdugo Power Academy, has been very successful, with 63% of alums taking home paychecks.

“We’ve been looking … to be more responsive to the business community, and I think we are in the best position to be addressing the issues,” said Dawn Lindsay, superintendent and president of Glendale Community College.

The academy is a perfect example of what the White House is looking for, Lindsay said. It takes unemployed workers from various sectors of the economy and gives them skills to find employment in emerging industries.

On Monday, Obama unveiled a structure to connect community colleges with prospective employers. It’s an idea already in place at Glendale Community College, Lindsay said.

Last month, the college and its business partners were awarded a three-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that would extend the Verdugo Power Academy to include instruction in cutting-edge technologies.

The college is also poised to expand partnerships with utility companies and contractors, said Scott Rubke, the college’s technology division chair.

“They seem to really like what we’re doing and want us to train people more rapidly,” he said. “They are excited to partner with us.”

Still, there are some who struggle to find work. The unemployment rate in Glendale was 11.7% in July, according to the latest figures from the state Economic Development Department. Unemployment has not hurt student enrollment, officials said.

“We’re cost effective so people can afford it,” Lindsay said. “If anything, I think it’s a fairly optimistic standing that the college was able to educate and return unemployed workers back into the workforce.”

Unemployment doesn’t tell the whole picture either, Rubke said. Retirements have hit some local businesses hard, and are turning to Glendale Community College students to fill vacancies through internships and other opportunities, he said.

A training program should be judged in the long term, he said.

“The tangible results should be quality employees in the long run,” Rubke said. “We just haven’t had enough hiring to really to bear that out, but that’s my goal, to say, ‘Hey, this is a special program.’”

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