JCCC Board of Trustees candidates on the issues: Preparing students for modern workforce

Jay Senter - October 16, 2019 2:00 pm

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for the candidates running for JCCC Board of Trustees.

Today, we are publishing the candidates’ responses to item three:

One of a community college’s goals is to prepare students for a rapidly evolving job market and to ensure area businesses have access to employees with the skills they need. Do you believe there any gaps between JCCC’s current offerings and the needs of the Johnson County community? If so, what are they and how should the college address them?

Editor’s note: When initially published, this piece had a duplicate of Lori Bell’s response in place of Colleen Cunningham’s response. Cunningham’s response has now been added. We apologize for the error.

Jameia Haines

As Johnson County Community College celebrates its 50 th Anniversary, it’s apparent that workforce training for the next 50 years is a priority. The recently opened Hugh L. Libby Career and Technical Education Center is an example of JCCC’s innovative efforts to prepare students for a rapidly evolving job market and to ensure area businesses have access to employees with the skills they need. I would work to continue the College’s efforts to emphasize career and technical education programs. There are a number of jobs needed in our community within these skilled trade areas such as: automotive, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology as well as plumbing. Continuing to create opportunities for students to engage with local businesses and community partners is key to this initiative. I support continued innovative programming and effective policies that ensure the College’s educational offerings are relevant and responsive to the workforce needs of our community.

Nancy Ingram (incumbent)

Among the many opportunities a community college provides its students, are those that prepare them with options to move directly into the local job market.

In the four years I have served as a trustee, I have witnessed the work of our advisory committees, local chambers and workforce development/economic councils to communicate the coordination of attracting business to the area, and meeting their employee needs. Identifying gaps and filling those needs is something we work toward every day.

When we discuss the identified gaps within our local communities we tend to hear discussion about the trades, specifically welding, plumbing automotive and electrical, among others. Using this example, our new Hugh L. Libby Career and Technical Education Center, provides a modern training facility for the trades right on our campus. Our new Fine Arts and Design building is another example of meeting the needs in an area of local growth. With movement to the area of the aviation industry, Johnson County Community College was a forerunner in assessing how we best participate. This is who we are.

Our partnerships and collaboration are widely complimented within the region, and as a result, I believe this to be a strength we have as an institution, and the best way to address any gaps, perceived or otherwise. We can be proud that we are involved in numerous task forces, committee and councils, and that we are seen as a solution to help fill the gaps in the workforce. We respond to the needs of our community in a very thorough, data driven way. We are sought out to work directly with companies to participate in the training of the employees they need. We work hand in hand with businesses throughout the area, to identify the industry needs and guide curriculum, with the shared goal of student success.

Greg Musil (incumbent)

Our College has done a great job of responding to the needs of area businesses – please ask them! Our business advisory committee members, the involvement of the business community in the College’s Foundation and scholarship fundraising, and our intense Continuing Education focus on relevant career improvement and job skills has helped us “keep up” with a dynamic and changing Johnson County business environment. The Board of Trustees’ commitment to a Facilities Master Plan that included a new building for graphic design and the new Career and Technical Education Center (for HVAC, automotive, plumbing, electrical and electronics) are great cutting-edge facilities (built without a tax rate increase thanks to sound financial planning). The College must continually listen to our stakeholders – a large portion of which are the employers who are seeking well-trained, well-rounded, dedicated employees like those the College produces. Being flexible and innovative often means change, in curriculum, in teaching methods, in scheduling classes when employees can attend, as well as other out-of-the-box thinking that can be discomforting to some but is necessary if we are to compete. Our next president needs to be engaged in the business community, listen and prepare for future careers, and then have the courage to implement appropriate programs on campus. The business community was the fist promoter of a community college, the voters agreed and created JCCC 50 years ago. We are not going to rest on our laurels.

Laura Smith-Everett

From the K-12 perspective, education is trending towards a future with multi-disciplinary skills in disruptive innovations. I think as future jobs are less and less predictable, the best thing we can do is support multidisciplinary faculty in innovating our courses and their pedagogy to meet the changing demands. STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) careers are the fastest growing careers in the US Market and the focus of much of the curriculum overhaul happening in K-12. While I think JCCC has done a good job providing vocational programs and university transfer options I think growing our Associate’s Degree STEM offerings is an important component to look at.

As a trustee, it would be important to continually question our assumptions about where markets are going and how we can remain nimble enough to adapt and change course offerings to those market needs. It is imperative that we don’t offer more courses than we can support. It is very difficult to discontinue a program once it has begun and we must always weigh the fiscal prudence of college offerings with program sustainability.

Lori Bell

I believe the current curriculum is in line with today’s job market, however without a more formal community advisory council program we cannot be assured that students are coming out prepared to begin working day one. I would like to see better reporting from the advisory councils to the community college so that curriculum decisions align with current and future job markets. The advisory councils should be made up of businesses of all sizes however as it stands today businesses are chosen on a volunteer basis. There is a benefit to the advisory councils in that they are receiving students directly out of college, yet the benefit should be coming back to JCCC through formal industry reporting.

Colleen Cunningham

Community colleges are often called a ticket to the middle-class for students from low-income families. When we see enrollment at JCCC down around 25% and tuition increasing 30% over the past decade, while the free lunch rate in Johnson County has increased over the same period, it means there are thousands of residents each and every year who don’t have access to that ticket, even while our tax dollars are already paying for 80% of it, between state grants and the mill levy.

Given that there is an extremely low marginal cost for additional students, we should be investigating ways to improve accessibility to residents, and one way to do that may be a reduction in tuition. We can make a tuition reduction revenue-neutral if it also results in an increase in enrollment. For instance, if we were able to return to 2009 enrollment levels, we could reduce tuition by as much as 20% without increasing the burden on tax payers. This may sound challenging, but Blue Ridge Community College in North Carolina was recently able to turn around a similar enrollment decline by becoming more responsive to the needs of the community and local industries, beginning with the use of listening sessions with stakeholders. We’ve spent over $125 million in the last 8 years on new construction and renovations. It’s time to shift focus back to serving students and the community.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item four:

 There has been a push among some in Johnson County to increase access to community college by reducing the cost to students. Are you in favor of significantly reducing tuition or making JCCC tuition free? If so how would the budget gap from reduced tuition revenue be made up?

Admin-faculty tensions, sports programs, non-partisan board: JCCC board candidates talk issues at SM Post forum

Candidates seeking seats on the Johnson County Board of Trustees in November’s elections covered a host of issues at the forum we held Tuesday

JCCC Board of Trustees candidates on the issues: Setting the college’s property tax rate when home values are rising

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local

JCCC Board of Trustees candidates on the issues: Qualifications for managing operation as large as JCCC

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local

Sponsored Post

Updates from Johnson County Community College: Spend an Enchanted Evening with us

Mark your calendars and start practicing your waltz! The 33rd annual Some Enchanted Evening Gala is happening Saturday, November 9 at the Overland Park

Sponsored Post

Updates from Johnson County Community College: Hugh L. Libby Career & Technical Education Center ribbon cutting and open house

As part of a multi-year Campus Transformation Project, the Hugh L. Libby Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) exemplifies JCCC’s commitment to provide today’s

Sponsored Post

Updates from Johnson County Community College: New technology to assist the visually impaired on campus

At Johnson County Community College, we take pride in offering a great campus experience for all Cavaliers and have several resources available to help

Shawnee Mission, USD 232 supers highlight common goals of personalized, real-world learning for students

Post-graduate preparedness for high school seniors and the collaborative work between the two school districts serving the city of Shawnee dominated discussions at a

JCCC named ‘top performer’ for sustainability, energy efficiency by national group

Johnson County Community College has been given a top ranking as a sustainable college for its efforts in energy efficiency and shrinking its ecological

Sponsored Post

Updates from Johnson County Community College: Introducing the new & improved Student Center

In 2016, the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees approved a facilities master plan which included renovations to several existing buildings and the

Meeting community needs, reducing tuition and setting property tax rate: Our questions for the JCCC Board of Trustees candidates

A few weeks ago, we asked our readers to submit suggestions for questions they’d like to hear the candidates running for seats on the