Secretary of Labor Walsh, Congressman Trone and Senator Van Hollen Hear Job Training Success at the Rockville Campus
The Department of Labor’s America’s Promise Grant helped put 500 area residents into highly skilled jobs over the past four years. Montgomery College received a share of $5.4 million, along with Frederick College and Prince George’s Community College.
Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Congressman David Trone, and Senator Chris Van Hollen visited the Rockville Campus this fall to talk to College and program leaders about the impact of the grant, and to hear directly from alumni who got jobs or found better ones thanks to the training.
“Free job training programs are essential to helping us build and strengthen the middle class!” tweeted Congressman Trone. The three government officials listened attentively and asked questions of the former students about how specifically the grant had helped them in their careers.
“As Congress debates additional funding for job training programs, the visit by Secretary Walsh, Congressman Trone, and Senator Van Hollen provided the College the opportunity to demonstrate the value of federal dollars at America’s community colleges,” said Susan Madden, chief government relations officer at MC. “Thanks to program alumni who shared their successes, the College made clear to these decision-makers the power of federal grants to spur innovation, create homegrown talent, and open doors to opportunity.”
"We are building local talent for local businesses, and we work with many smaller businesses."
The grant funds provided tuition-free, high-tech training in information technology, which helped students get jobs in high-demand fields like cybersecurity, software development, and cloud computing. The trainings served 1,385 diverse students looking to hone skills, find jobs, or move up the ladder in their current workplace.
Alumni of the program have gone on to work at high profile companies such as Microsoft, Booz Allen, Accenture, Geico, Leidos, Wells Fargo, Freddie Mac, Amazon Web Services, MCPS, Westat, Capital One, General Dynamics Information Technology, among others, as well as smaller local businesses, such as United Solutions and Washington Software.
Claudia Rodriguez, one MC alumna who shared her story with government officials, attended two data analytics bootcamps back in 2019. At the time, she was unemployed and looking for new opportunities, so she decided to build on her existing knowledge as a programmer.
“To be a good data analyst, one of the tools you need to know is SQL [a programming language].” Rodriguez said. “I already had knowledge, but data analytics is huge. It’s a field that you can explore if you’d like to understand patterns, to identify information and how it can predict trends.
The tools she gained helped her get the position she currently holds as development database manager for the Jewish Council for the Aging, a nonprofit.
Another program alumna, Jen Lee, is currently a software engineer at CareFirst. She completed a Java Web Development Bootcamp at MC in early 2019. “On a daily basis I work with the Java language within the SpringBoot development framework, which was at the core of our hands-on learning at MC,” Lee says. “There was much I had to learn on the job, as I would for any developer job, but I felt confident that I knew enough to get started and knew where to look for answers when faced with a new challenge.”
Gail Nguyen, who was assistant director of the grant, said these U.S. D.O.L. grants are funded by the fees that employers pay to sponsor H-1B visas required for hiring people from overseas. “The government uses those fees to then help Montgomery College and other institutions train local talent,” Nguyen explained.
The biggest takeaway, according to Nguyen, is that these programs that offer no-tuition trainings and bootcamps work.
“We are building local talent for local businesses, and we work with many smaller businesses,” Nguyen says. “A lot of people go from unemployment, or underemployment, to something better.”
Collaboration Yields Agility and Results
The collaboration between government, the College, and industry is essential to the success of this and many other programs MC offers.
“We brought large and small employers together quarterly, under the leadership of the Maryland Tech Council to consider ways we can align curricula with industry needs, with real workplace skills, as well as with evolving workplace skills,” Nguyen said “These industry/Montgomery College meetings allowed us to ascertain the skills employers need now, as well as what new skills will be needed down the road.”
What sets the MC bootcamp apart from others in the area, Lee says, is that it was free for students and the low entrance barrier.
“It’s pivotal that federal grants continue to support programs like the one MC offers so that those who have the time and the will to learn can have a place to do so,” he says. “Had it not been for this opportunity at MC, it’s hard to imagine where I would be. I was lucky to have found a well-balanced mix of hands-on learning, mentorship, and career navigation.”
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