Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
February 2, 2000
VISION FOR 2-YEAR COLLEGES
My vision for the two-year college system is one of continued success.
1. First, continued success in meeting the workforce needs of today and tomorrow. The two-year system has always been at the forefront of providing quality training and re-training to fuel our economy.
2. Second, while the two-year system employs a unique system of impressive flexibility in meeting market demands, it also provides access to quality education for individuals interested in pursuing a bachelors. These academic transfers are economical for the student and the state.
3. Finally, the two-year system will need to carry on its long-time tradition of educating our most vulnerable and needy state residents through basic skills training and English as a second language. Admittedly, these are our most difficult to serve individuals, but they are Americans that deserve the advantages our education system - particularly our two-year system - has to offer.
While higher education met with unprecedented success last legislative session, there is always room for improvement and my Supplemental Budget includes provisions to improve our community and technical colleges.
The skills gap creates the income gap
1. The state of Washington is facing an enormous skills gap. As you know, the biggest gap is for skilled workers who need education and training greater than a high school degree but less than a bachelor's degree.
This is a skills gap - not a labor shortage - because there are thousands of workers in our economy who could benefit from these high demand jobs. There are 53,000 new dislocated workers each year who don't have the skills to compete for new Washington jobs and are losing ground economically. Hundreds of thousands of the workers in our economy are working in jobs that pay less than a living wage.
Citizens who are unable to keep up with the increasing technical and general skills required by jobs today will find themselves stuck in dead end jobs or losing ground year after year. Our country is facing the greatest gap between the rich and poor since we started collecting income data in the 1930s. And the skills gap is the greatest cause of that income gap. We must find ways that busy citizens with families can both learn more and earn more.
Customized and On-the-Job Training
Last session I sponsored legislation that moved the state's Job Skills Fund from the Workforce Board to the Community College Board so that the program is closer to the community colleges that do the training. That fund was designed to match with state general fund dollars, contributions by employers to on the job training through community college contracts. I am hopeful that you can find ways to redesign curriculum so that more and more community college education can be provided on the job through that program. We rank dead last in the nation in the funding of customized and on the job training and we must change that.
This session I am sponsoring legislation that will provide a 50% B&O tax credit for employers who contract with community colleges for on the job training. I need your support for HB 2508 and SB 6321 so that we can expand the amount of on the job training. This is a pilot program capped at $1 million and it will sunset in three years. You can make this work.
Money for development of new high tech programs
Last session we were able to fund several million dollars for community college programs in high tech and other high demand occupations as well as the development of new skills standards. This session I will be proposing an additional $1.2 million enhancement for the development of new high tech programs in the two-year system.
Money for skills gap fund
I also believe that we need to greater stronger partnerships between businesses, community colleges and the entire employment and training system. I have sponsored $1.2 million for a skills gap fund to build partnerships between industry associations, community colleges and local workforce development councils. These partnerships are intended to get ahead of the curve on, first, assessing the needs of industry 3 or 4 years down the line and, second, working with community colleges to develop systems of skills standards for industry training needs.
I have received strong support from the software, electronics and food processing industries for these partnerships. This is not an attempt to replace the advisory boards that you have created to develop your own programs. This is rather an effort to focus on the overall needs of a few key sectors in Washington's economy and work proactively to identify what there needs will be in the future.
I want all of Washington's workers to share equally in the benefits of our economic prosperity. It is time for government to work in partnership with industry to build an education system that allows all working families to learn more while they earn more.
As your numbers reflect, distance education is increasingly popular with Washingtonians. More and more individuals are signing up for distance education courses - either exclusively so they can fit it into their busy schedules or as supplemental to their more traditional coursework in "regular" classrooms. Whatever the format, people need easy access and delivery of distance education through the two-year system and my budget provides needed funding for a more streamlined distance admissions and payment system ($1.5 million).
Responding to I-695
While various polls continue to unearth the causes of the overwhelming support for I-695, I think it serves as an important wake-up call for all of us - including higher education.
1. At a minimum, citizens were tired of the MVET, especially as it compares to similar taxes or fees in other states.
2. At the most extreme, it means that individuals truly believe there is too much government. If this is the case, is higher education "government" in the voters' minds? I-695 specifically excluded tuition from voter-approval, but do most citizens feel this way? My questions drive at one concern and that is we have to ensure we are meeting the needs of Washington and that Washington citizens see the value in their higher education system.
As Governor, I see the two-year system as critical, but let's make sure that the rest of the state understands your value. Singing it from the mountain-top probably won't be sufficient, we will have to demonstrate it through increasing the number of transfers to baccalaureates, training and re-training more individuals for high-paying jobs in the workforce, and improving literacy. Through these efforts, citizens will use their two-year, public higher education system at unprecedented levels and the state will benefit greatly through a stronger economy and more educated, well-informed citizens participating in our democracy.