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A Decade of Responsiveness to the Community

Alexandra McGary of Target PharmacyOver the last decade, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) has become a recognized leader in developing public-private workforce partnerships. These partnerships included critical leadership from President Phil Davis and MCTC’s Division of Continuing Education and Customized Training. Partnerships are powerful economic tools, providing economic growth to our community through market-driven approaches to workforce training.

In the late 1990s the Phillips neighborhood became a symbol of urban blight. Alongside leadership from business executives, MCTC led educational programming in the Phillips Partnership in the early 2000s, delivering training to neighborhood residents through the Health Careers Institute (HCI). Mike Christenson, then head of Medica Foundation and now Associate Vice President of Workforce Development at MCTC, was the catalyst of the Phillips Partnership which included leaders from Wells Fargo, Honeywell, Abbott Northwestern, Children’s Hospital and Clinics, HCMC and Project for Pride in Living (PPL). HCI became the nation’s most successful hospital-based workforce development program, with 1,200 low-income students enrolled and partner hospitals guaranteeing jobs. MCTC was honored with the nationally based Bellwether Award for anchoring this program.

In 2003, Northwest Airlines laid off 1,500 mechanics. MCTC responded with an accelerated heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) program. John Singel was one of those laid off from Northwest Airlines. He enrolled in MCTC's HVACR program, got an apprenticeship with Pipefitters Local 539 and later landed a good-paying job with Associated Mechanical Contractors. This fall, Singel turned full circle on his MCTC experience, and is now an instructor in MCTC’s HVACR program. “This is a field with great job security and with tons of career avenues within the field,” said Singel.

In the mid 2000s, as the economy was expanding, MCTC partnered with US Bank to create training programs for multilingual employees and a new banking program as an entry point into the industry. “This public-private partnership will help new immigrants and other Minnesotans get the education they need to find good-paying jobs,” stated then-Governor Pawlenty. More than 400 students received training, including 170 English as Second Language learners and nearly 40 managers trained in Spanish.

Prior to the recent recession, MCTC partnered with North Minneapolis manufacturing companies including medical device manufacturer Coloplast and HVACR manufacturer Innovent. As the recession set In MCTC shifted focus, partnering with BlueGreen Alliance, a labor and industry consortium, and the RENEW Minneapolis program, therefore providing skills training in energy-efficient processes and lean production.

Today, MCTC is partnering with PPL to train 100 low-income individuals as pharmacy technicians, including Alexandra (Alex) McGary. Alex and her husband were laid off in 2009. Ten months later, Alex’s husband found work, but Alex could not. “Finding MCTC's pharmacy technician program was a godsend,” said Alex. Earlier this year, Alex interviewed and was hired on the spot at a Target pharmacy—an industry partner through PPL. “This program is a great opportunity for students to gain access to a healthcare career,” said Jeremy Enger, Target Pharmacy Business Partner. “It exposes students to industry healthcare leaders and provides firsthand experience in their field.” Passing along the tradition of education, Alex’s daughter enrolled at MCTC in high school through Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and is still enrolled today. “I’m a big proponent of community colleges, and was glad to find the right program at the right time,” said Alex.

For the last decade, MCTC staff, faculty and alumni have responded to the needs of its surrounding community by establishing neighborhood development initiatives, industry-specific technical degree programs and educational opportunities for Minnesota’s growing immigrant population. “The best we can bring to a challenged household is a career ladder,” said Mike Christenson. “Nobody does that better than MCTC.”

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