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Education
An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Biden Says Community Colleges Needed To Retrain Workers For High-Tech Jobs

Vice President Joe Biden was in Charlotte Monday, not to stump for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but to talk about the importance of community colleges.

At a small invitation-only audience at Central Piedmont Community College, the vice president was introduced by Michelle Lopez, a former Army soldier and IT graduate of CPCC. Biden thanked Lopez for her service in acknowledging the 15th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

“It’s encouraging to know that people who have been through hell can get back up,” Biden said. “It’s who we are as Americans. We get back up.”

Biden then turned to praising CPCC and the country’s community colleges for playing a major role in training people to be competitive in an ever-evolving technological workplace.

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Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
Invitation-only audience listens to Vice President Joe Biden at CPCC.

“We have to have the best educated and highest skilled workforce in the world and that’s where community colleges come in because you are the most versatile educational institution in the nation,” Biden said. “Community college is the gateway not only to immediate jobs and careers, but also to four-year universities and beyond.”

The Obama administration has given a lot of attention to community colleges. It proposed a federal-state partnership to provide free tuition. Four states have passed versions of free tuition program since 2014 – Tennessee, Kentucky, Minnesota and Oregon.

President Obama included $8 billion in the 2013 budget to invest in job training programs at community colleges. This was on top of a $2 billion effort in 2009 to focus on health care, energy and information technology.

Biden says CPCC has put its share of federal job-training funding to good use.

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Credit Gwendolyn Glenn

“So you took the $2.5 million and you made mega, mega-tronic, anyway... it's computers and electronics, mega-tronics and it was hands on,” Biden said. “One hundred percent of the class is devoted to replacing actual skills that are needed on the floor. Salaries range from $40,000 a year after graduation, in some cases putting them on the path to make $100,000 a year.”

And Biden says it’s not just recent high school graduates who need community college. He says the role of two-year colleges in retraining workers will continue to grow.