Workforce Institute?

Joy Hines

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In a small corner of the first floor of the San Jose City College Technology Building are the Workforce Institute’s executive offices and some classrooms. What they do has been somewhat of a mystery to City College students.

“WI has in fact trained 21,617 students during the past fiscal year ending June 30, 2011,” Executive Director Carol Coen said. Starting with a part time position, she has been with WI for 15 years. She notes that there has been a significant change of demographics, in that 72 percent of those being retrained or seeking specific job skills are now 45 years or older.

Workforce Institute has funded different labs on Evergreen and SJCC campuses, some costing as much as $250,000. They are continually in the process of accepting and writing grants, and enter into contracts with both small and large businesses.

Because of their close cooperation with employers, many times they have been the leader for cutting edge studies in emerging fields. Education for these occupational opportunities are well researched by WI, and when warranted, WI takes the opportunity with SJCC’s district’s faculty to build some of the training they offer into certificates and degree programs.

Starting with a contract or a grant, WI begins a process to provide particular education opportunities on a permanent and sustained basis over time.

It may be a population, geographical region or an emerging field that is targeted for assistance. It is important to remember that employability translates directly into economic development for the local area and the region.

People need to keep current with their skills, some need to upgrade and some are training in an innovative or leading edge technology. “We are not building career planks, that you fall off and say, ‘Then what?'” said Coen.