On March 9, the Boston Foundation hosted the awarding of the second annual $50,000 Deval Patrick Prize for Community Colleges to Mount Wachusett Community College in recognition of its work in Advanced Manufacturing Technology Programs.
"Mount Wachusett Community College has created stackable programs that allow students to learn the skills they need to enter a key industry," said former Governor Deval Patrick. "Their programs, which were developed in partnership with employers and tailored to meet the demands of their regional economy, were precisely the type of outcome I was hoping for when I asked for a new way of thinking about community colleges in 2012."
The awarding of the Prize followed a conversation with leaders of the Commonwealth's community colleges about the crucial role these higher education institutions play in equipping people to fill the skills gap in Massachusetts.
Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO, spoke about the Foundation's 2012 report The Case for Community Colleges: Aligning Higher Education and Workforce Needs in Massachusetts. "That report led to some controversial and heated conversations at the time," he said. "But what united everyone was the conviction that community colleges play a critical role in higher education."
The report led to the formation of the Coalition FOR Community Colleges, which was central to the passage of reforms in the 2013 state budget that increased performance-based funding, mandated governance changes and increased collaboration among the state's 15 community colleges.
Ronald L. Walker II, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development for the Commonwealth, spoke about a cross-sector Workforce Skills Gap Task Force formed to enact Governor Charlie Baker's vision. "People lack the skills they need and employers need workers with skills," he told those gathered. "Our goal is to bring everyone together."
Joseph Fuller, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, agreed about the importance of improving communication between educators and employers. "Public policy plays an important part in that," he said, "as do programs like the Deval Patrick Prize we're celebrating today."
"The Boston Foundation started the conversation several years ago," said Lane Glenn, President of Northern Essex Community College and Chair of the Massachusetts Community Colleges President's Council. "It has a history of purpose and it really stepped up for community colleges."