By John J. “Ski” Sygielski, MBA, Ed.D., president and CEO of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College
Published by PennLive, Dec. 13, 2022.
Greetings, Governor-elect Shapiro.
Congratulations on being chosen by the people of Pennsylvania to steer the state as governor for the next four years!
As president and CEO of Pennsylvania’s first and largest community college, I look forward to working with you and your team to enhance and expand the state’s economic vitality that our citizens deserve. I am a passionate advocate for education that transforms lives and destinies, and it is my personal and professional mission to convince people that community college should be the first choice when it comes to their education.
For decades, community colleges have responded quickly to the immediate needs of our business communities. As Pennsylvania’s largest provider of public postsecondary education and training, community colleges have extensive experience and expertise in workforce-aligned programming, many of which is offered remotely and can lead to employment opportunities. We have the flexibility to provide customized training to meet the needs of business and industry. Leveraging the expertise and experience of our state’s 15 community colleges to expand additional programs is the most efficient, effective way to ensure more Pennsylvanians have access to the education and training they need to succeed in today’s workforce.
For example, in 2021-22, HACC provided workforce training to 16,330 students, many of whom received customized training to meet the needs of their employers. HACC is the first community college in Pennsylvania to provide an apprenticeship program in advanced manufacturing. HACC’s Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) Apprenticeship Program was developed in partnership with the Governor’s Action Team in the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to support our manufacturing industries. As a result of this partnership, AMES Reese Inc. remained in Lancaster County, ensuring a trained workforce with the skills to fill the demand of its new plant. HACC continues to look for opportunities to expand its apprenticeship programs throughout the College’s 11-county footprint in Central Pennsylvania.
Even though the state’s unemployment rate recently declined to near historic lows, the economic implications of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt for years to come in every sector of society. Citizens may want to train for more stable careers, but are afraid they cannot afford it. I am made aware every day of the struggles our students face as they dedicate effort, scarce resources and limited time to create a better future for themselves and their loved ones. With our open admissions and open arms, community colleges are the Ellis Island of postsecondary education.
In Pennsylvania’s tight labor market, I believe it is critical for the state government to open its pocketbook wider in support of community colleges and the value of a community college education – a value that will continue to have significant, long-term and positive impacts on our local and state economies.
HACC and each of Pennsylvania’s community colleges stand ready to provide the backbone of support for Pennsylvania’s drive to be recognized as a thriving, innovative home for industry and businesses large and small.
However, we cannot do it alone. We need adequate financial support from the Governor’s Office and state legislature to ensure our success. The bottom line – when we invest in community colleges, we all benefit from the economic return in our communities.
Best wishes for a joyous holiday as you and your family prepare to begin a new chapter as Pennsylvania’s First Family.