Statement of George Boggs, Ph.D., on behalf of the American Association of Community Colleges to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Evaluating Veterans Employment and Training Service Program Effectiveness and Strategic Planning
U.S. House of Representatives
340 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
September 27, 2000
Good morning. My name is Dr. George R. Boggs and I am President of the American Association of community Colleges (AACC). AACC represents over 1,100 regionally accredited, public and private, associate degree-granting institutions of higher education. I am pleased to appear today before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on the role of community colleges in providing job placement and related services to veterans.
We commend the Subcommittee for taking a hard look at whether veterans are receiving efficient and effective assistance in locating suitable jobs when they have separated from the service. Adequate performance of this function is a moral imperative owed to those who have served this country, and this work is also a strong recruiting tool for the Armed Forces.
It is useful to state up front that, if there is one thing that unites community colleges, it is their diversity. The enormous range of community colleges is due largely to the fact that they are locally oriented institutions whose focus and operation reflects widely different local needs. In addition, community colleges are embedded in a range of government oversight structures, particularly at the state level, and they are also guided by different types of governing boards, both at the state and local level. Hence, there is no such thing as a typical community college: they are large and small; urban, rural and suburban; and focused on a myriad of educational, training and related objectives. Finally, it should be noted that community colleges strive to be as flexible and responsive as possible. Delayed attention to compelling needs is often no better than total inattention, especially in instances concerning the imperatives of businesses.
Our testimony today highlights some of the many activities that community colleges across the country are undertaking to place veterans into good jobs. For years, community colleges have been intimately involved in providing placement and related job-finding services to America’s veterans. In some cases these activities are directed specifically to these individuals, but this support is also provided in the context of more general job placement activities. In addition, community colleges are active in assisting veterans in filing Montgomery GI Bill claims, and in guiding them toward education and training programs to help them realize their career and related goals. This Association is also proud of its strong and long-time support for the Montgomery GI Bill.
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee is well aware that the federal role in job training changed dramatically with the August, 1998 enactment of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). This law was originally scheduled for full implementation this July, but the Department of Labor (WIA) is giving states an extra year to bring the new system fully on-line. Development of the new WIA system will have enormous implications for community colleges in the areas of education and career counseling, job placement, and numerous other activities, and hence will greatly impact upon the services provided to veterans.
The WIA system presents both challenges and opportunities for our colleges. Hopes were high with enactment of the law, and in some places this optimism has been realized, with community colleges playing a large role in the fledgling WIA system in ways that complement and enhance existing activities. In other cases, however, the law has created conflicts. Some of the problems our association hears about include: inadequate representation/input on the new Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs); unsatisfactory relationships within One-Stop Career Centers, particularly over the allocation of expenditures for operating the One-Stops; and the burden of generating extensive new accountability information required to keep training programs eligible for WIA funding. In addition, in many places the WIA system simply mirrors a range of services that many community colleges already provide. Therefore, the overlay of a whole new federal system, with a complicated system of statutorily mandated "partners," has created complications for our colleges. Nevertheless, they are strongly committed to making the system work.
What follows are some examples of what community colleges are doing to help veterans following discharge, particularly in the area of job placement.
North Essex Community College
At North Essex Community College (NECC) in Haverhill, MA, the Career Development Center works closely with veterans’ groups on campus and assists them with their re-careering programs, offering individual and group career counseling with a specific focus on veterans when advised. The college also offers opportunities for students to "test" particular career fields in job shadows, externships, or "adult" cooperative educational programs that allow participants to work in at least three fields each term so that they can gather career experience. While at NECC, veterans are encouraged to participate in all career programs, including specialized workshops focusing on "What Skills Veterans Bring to the New Economy," career panels, Meet and Greet Employer Days, and On-Campus Employer Interview Days. This is all done with close attention to individual backgrounds and the special needs of clients. Referrals are made to appropriate external resources when needed.
Fayetteville Technical Community College
Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) in Fayetteville, NC, is actively engaged in assisting veterans get jobs. The institution has a full-time Veterans Services Coordinator. Most of the college’s efforts are targeted at veterans with service-connected physical or mental disabilities. At FTCC, the Veterans Services Office, in conjunction with the counseling staff in the Career Center, provides educational, vocational, and personal counseling, in addition to evaluating veterans’ interests, abilities and skills. All of these efforts are aimed at providing veterans with the necessary education and training to qualify them for suitable employment.
Community College of Baltimore County
Each of the three campuses at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in Maryland has a Veterans Office and personnel to handle student veterans. All veterans are identified and seen by college personnel upon application to the college. Veterans are interviewed and requested to produce separation papers and to complete appropriate VA-related educational benefit documents. Also, The Veterans Office relays the appropriate procedures that must be followed by veterans as they matriculate.
Veterans are then sent to the Counseling Center to begin the assessment process. Those with previous college coursework might be waived from the assessment process. However, previous coursework and/or military training is evaluated for acceptance into the college and for programmatic fit. For students without previous college coursework, an assessment process is required to determine their level of reading, writing, and math proficiency. Also, counselors advise students regarding the course requirements for their degree and certificate programs. Veterans are required to meet with counselors every semester to ensure that they are progressing appropriately. This function is terminated upon transfer/graduation. However, all records continue to be maintained by the institution.
Northern Virginia Community College
Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) does not have a dedicated, ongoing program to assist veterans with finding employment, but it provides many related services. With the demise of VEOP grants a few years ago, coupled with the college’s policy of turning over VA education reporting fees to the general operating fund, veterans services offices no longer have the funds to support a vigorous outreach program. However, veteran students seeking employment are directed to the Career Resource Center job banks, as well as to the local Virginia Employment Commission, which provides a special service dedicated to military veterans.
NVCC also currently provides education support for 112 Chapter 31 veterans with service-connected disabilities. The primary focus of this program is specifically "to make them marketable for a good job compatible with their disabilities." The primary mission of the five-campus veterans affairs offices is to file education claims on behalf of veterans, their eligible dependents, and active duty service persons. On average, NVCC files, tracks, and adjusts approximately 900 education claims per semester.
Wake Technical Community College
Wake Technical Community College (WTCC) in Raleigh, NC, provides a variety of services to veterans interested in getting jobs. These activities include: resume preparation; interview practice; Career Fair preparation and campus Career Fairs; job listings; employer resource information; informational assistance on salaries and occupations; career exploration/planning services; referrals to veteran representatives at the Employment Services Commissions and the North Carolina Veterans Affairs Office; and providing Work-Study positions at the Veterans' Readjustment Counseling Service.
The college is extremely active in serving a large area veterans population. One good example of this is veterans’ engagement in the college’s LANTrack program.
Since its inception in 1996, the LANTrack program has graduated 80 participants. Of these participants, 32 are veterans and as of September 8, 2000, all 32 have retained employment using the skills taught in the program.
The WEBTrack (formerly PC Online) program, while still a fairly new program, has already graduated 21 participants, 15 of whom are veterans, and, as of September 8, 2000, 14 have retained employment using the skills taught in the program.
It might also be useful to include testimonials from two students who have benefited by these services.
Jeff Boles took a Local Area Network Program in the spring of 1998, and has since become a Network Manager at Ward-North America. Jeff writes, "My name is Jeff Boles and this is my story of how I have made the adjustment coming from the Army being disabled and not knowing what I was going to do to support my family. I could no longer work in the construction trade, so I asked VA if they could help me get retrained though their VOC rehabilitation program. When I got to Grossmont College I knew very little about computers and networks. With the help of the instructors and staff, I was able to retain enough knowledge about networks and computers at Grossmont’s Leadership & Economic Development Institute to help me get a job in this field. When I got my job here at Ward-North America I started at an entry-level Technical Support position, and over the last two years my responsibilities have grown. I now have the title of Network Manager."
Juan Molina joined the Army in October. "When my tour of duty came to an end, I had no clue as to what I could do or become. I knew my options were limited, as everyone knows that armor crewman are not your six figure salary careers. I had the GI Bill and many benefits that being a veteran provides, but my advantage was my youth and determination to excel. I started on my General Education at my nearest community college, hoping that I would find my calling in the workforce. I stumbled across an ad that a South County Career Center could provide veteran assistance in career placement. I thought it wouldn’t hurt as long as I didn’t sign on a dotted line. Spoke with the counselor and received the go-ahead to attend LEDI the following week. (Believe me I read everything before attending.) I was told it would be a fast-paced course that would provide PC training and receive credits towards my A.A. They were right 110 percent. I completed LEDI, and began an internship at the Port of San Diego. I applied what I learned, and absorbed the new. Of course I stumbled my fair share of times, it is expected, you have to earn your dues in any job."
"I am currently a Level II technician with Technology Integration Group, contracted to provide desktop support to the Port of San Diego. I have been providing this support for one year now. This is probably the greatest job satisfaction that I have been privileged with. I am not going to lie to you and say that everything is happy, and that the sun shines everyday. On the contrary, it has been quite tough in this industry as it is very competitive. LEDI has definitely prepared me for my future."
Blue Ridge Community College
Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in Flat Rock, NC, has a newly remodeled and expanded JobLink Career Center with many job placement and career counseling resources available to the entire community, including veterans. The institution has a full time Employment Security Commission (ESC) representative and maintains comprehensive local job listings and ESC Job Listings. The college has an employability lab with book-marked Internet employment sites, self-paced job-seeking skills activities and DISCOVER, a computerized career assessment/information system. It maintains a career resource library and a nationally certified career counselor. There are also several resume specialists who work one-on-one to produce professional resumes for customers.
Specifically for veterans, BRCC has a veteran's job consultant in its JobLink Center every Wednesday. Appointments are scheduled for this individual for any veterans seeking employment. The institution is currently developing a mailing to be sent to all students and graduates who are veterans, children or spouses of veterans, describing the employment services of the JobLink Center.
Springfield Technical College
Springfield Technical College (STC) in Springfield, MA, offers a variety of services to veterans in attendance, as well as to other veterans located in the service area. STC maintains an extensive referral network of any agencies that provide a wide range of assistance to veterans, including job placement. The dean at the college who oversees the Office of Veterans’ Affairs is the commander of a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. This provides the institution with ready access to a broad network at the state and national levels that can help veterans find assistance.
Central Piedmont Community College
At Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC, the Career Center is open to visitors from the entire community. The center offers specialized assistance with veterans' resumes. The goal is to revise resumes to emphasize transferable skills, so that veterans can make the transition into corporations or non-profit organizations. The Career Center Web site also has a section devoted to the military. One link that has proven helpful is called Hire Quality (http://www.hire-quality.com). This site is devoted to helping veterans find career opportunities with employers who wish to employ veterans.
Forsyth Technical College
At Forsyth Technical College, located in Winston-Salem, NC, veterans are offered the same array of services through the Counseling and Employment Assistance Centers that all students receive. There is also a VA College Work-Study Program that is coordinated through VA Regional Offices and helps veteran students find jobs on and off campus while they are enrolled in school. The Winston-Salem VA Regional Office has an integral role in this program. More generally, FTC’s Employment Assistance Center helps currently enrolled students find employment while they are in school. They offer Job Fairs during the school year for students to talk to potential employers who come on campus with employment possibilities for students. They also help with resume writing and the job application process when veterans are looking for positions upon graduation.
South Carolina Technical Colleges
A variety of services for veterans are in place in South Carolina’s Technical Colleges. A staff member at Trident Technical College in Charleston, SC, works closely with the Transition Assistance Program at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station. Through this program, the college representative makes a number of presentations to military personnel about to be discharged. These presentations focus upon general issues relating to college attendance and are not geared toward recruiting prospective applicants to Trident Technical College. However, the college also maintains office hours at the Weapons Station. Through this presence, information about programs and services available at Trident Technical College is made available.
Central Carolina Technical College, located in Sumter near Shaw Air Force Base, and the Technical College of the Lowcountry, located in Beaufort near a Marine Air Station and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, also work with base officials to ensure that information about academic programs and services are available to base personnel, as well as to dependents. Courses are taught at the bases, college staff are invited to make presentations, and the colleges advertise their programs in the bases' newspapers.
Many of the Technical Colleges that do not have military bases in their service areas are also involved in making veterans and current military personnel aware of their academic programs and services and encourage enrollment at the colleges. Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, SC, is a good example. Staff from Piedmont make presentations to the National Guard and Reserve units within their service areas. These programs serve a dual purpose. They inform the men and women about higher education opportunities that are available and provide the staff with an opportunity to recruit applicants to Piedmont Technical College.
Piedmont's efforts are built upon a good working relationship that has developed between the college's staff and the military recruiters and education assistance officers. These types of relationships have also been developed in many of the areas served by South Carolina’s Technical Colleges.
As the above descriptions demonstrate, community colleges are active in many places in helping veterans locate good job opportunities, and in providing many related services. Our institutions are committed to these individuals, and we stand ready to work with the Subcommittee in devising ways to be even more effective in helping them. We thank you for this opportunity to testify before you today.
Statement of George Boggs, Ph.D.,
on behalf of the
American Association of Community Colleges
House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations