Established in 1961, Monroe Community College (MCC) serves a diverse population of students in Rochester, New York, and the surrounding nine-county Finger Lakes Region. MCC has campuses in Brighton and downtown Rochester as well as its Applied Technologies Center, Economic and Workforce Development Center, and Public Safety training Facility. With the support of American Association of Community Colleges’ Expanding Community College Apprenticeships (ECCA) funds and multiple committed partners, MCC has expanded into over 18 manufacturing programs (trades) as well as through a robust youth apprenticeship program known as the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program (FLYAP) serving over 33 company sponsors.
MCC leadership values its diversity and its collaborations with business and industry. “MCC is a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty, and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Ensuring equal access and equal educational opportunities for all of our students’ success is central to the College’s mission of excellence in teaching and learning,” said MCC President DeAnna R. Burt-Nanna, Ph.D. “We continue inspiring the way forward through our role and responsibility as educators and as a partner with businesses and industry in support of our students and their success.”
During the ECCA initiative, MCC’s commitment to providing increased opportunities for minorities and underserved populations has been evident through multiple targeted actions and strategic partnerships. The partnership between MCC and the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association (RTMA) is key to linking apprentices with manufacturing employers. Employers in the region have articulated the need for – and importance of – diversity in the workplace and clearly understand the benefits for the company, for the worker, and for the larger community.
Representing over 200 manufacturers in upstate New York, the RTMA and MCC collaborate on the college’s apprenticeship programs and on youth apprenticeships to identify and recruit students of color and traditionally underserved students. Working in partnership with the Urban League, youth apprenticeship recruiting activities are conducted through an aligned network of community-based organizations that serve minority and disadvantaged populations. For example, the Champion Academy, a nonprofit in the greater Rochester area, serves disadvantaged minority youth through a broad array of services including engaging youth with local employers and the establishment of youth apprenticeships that are administered through the MCC and RTMA collaboration.
Understanding where communities of diverse individuals are located or assembled and what informational delivery methods and recruiting strategies work best for those groups is necessary for diversity enrollment attainment. MCC partner organizations and college staff use a variety of strategies to inform and recruit potential apprenticeship students such as holding career-focused events including career fairs and secondary school visitations that target multicultural families and students. Flyers and print materials that feature diverse populations have been developed by MCC for use at events and for distribution electronically. The use of digital marketing through platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook are also recommended if the messages and depictions are well-crafted, targeted for diverse populations, and are distinctly engaging and spirited – as opposed to uninspiring descriptions of information. Success stories from diverse or underrepresented apprenticeship graduates are encouraged, both in print form and video.
Another example of the RTMA and MCC outreach to the diverse community is a series of ‘Signing Day’ events that are hosted in partnership with local secondary schools. During COVID-19, these were held as socially-distanced, in-person events meant to build energy and dignity for students who otherwise might not have pursued higher education and training opportunities. Applauded by their peers and families, students were showcased for making the bold decision to elevate their education. Area manufacturers and MCC staff were recognized for expanding and enhancing the diverse future talent pool of the community and state. In addition to youth apprenticeship enrollment, these events linked each student with formal job shadowing opportunities and paid co-ops while earning college credit. Local media coverage of these events expanded the awareness of MCC and RTMA apprenticeship opportunities to the broader community.
An important component of the classroom and on the job experience of apprentices is the availability of support services. MCC offers a range of services for students and apprentices including child care, drop-in care, advising, financial aid, health and dental, emergency finances, tutoring, food and transportation assistance, and the TRIO program. There is an active Diversity Council which works to promote MCC’s mission and commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity. Specifically for the apprenticeship program, mentorship arrangements are established for students and MCC dedicates a full-time staff member to the provision of academic and personal needs that include case management, advising, counseling, and support services. These services are in high demand for students from diverse backgrounds that have been disadvantaged or underserved and require immediate and/or long-term assistance in order to persevere and to succeed in the apprenticeship program. As MCC staff engage in frequent ‘check-ins’ with enrolled apprentices, they routinely learn of issues such as work-school schedule conflicts, car issues, equipment needs, cash flow problems, and other issues that require immediate discussion and resolution to maintain apprenticeship continuity and success. Having rapid access to college and community supports and resources is necessary to tackle these common needs.
MCC uses ECCA funds to leverage other grants and funding streams that promote or target services for diverse populations. For example, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Fund which emphasizes entrepreneurship and economic development within communities of color, covers half of the salary for the MCC Apprenticeship Coordinator. Other MCC leveraged funding sources that feature a diversity and inclusion theme include the federal Youth Build program, State University of New York Apprenticeship program, American Apprenticeship Initiative, and the Rochester Gas and Electric Economic Development program.
The following quote from the MCC Program Director, Dale Pearce, highlights the college’s approach to registered apprenticeship and youth apprenticeships, “As a Rochester native, the community involvement in Registered Apprenticeships and the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program truly defines our spirit in advanced manufacturing and furthers solidifies diversity and equity as a cornerstone of the Great City of Rochester and its surrounding communities.”