Dr. Patricia Gentile, who took office in January as president of North Shore Community College, thanked U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman John Tierney and the Lynn legislative delegation for their support of higher education during a roundtable discussion at the North Shore Career Center in Lynn.
Gentile’s remarks came during a discussion with unemployed workers, including Lynn resident Helen Mateo, and community advocates about renewing unemployment benefits for Massachusetts workers.
Gentile comments promoted the benefits of workers acquiring new skills and training at community colleges prior to re-entering the labor force.
“We know the value of what happens when people who are dislocated from their jobs come back and get new skills, new training, certificates, and degrees to re-enter the labor force,” said Gentile. “It’s transformative and it’s a real investment in the future of our economy.”
Gentile said educational leaders are aware that “we are entering a knowledge economy so we know that we have to train and re-train and re-educate our workers as they go through their life cycle.”
Gentile said NSSC sees 12,000 credit students in each year and an additional 6,000 continuing educational or non-credit students.
“Thousands of those folks are dislocated workers, chronically underemployed, unemployed, come from families who are struggling, rely very heavily on their benefits and on Pell Grants and loans to make it through our college,” said Gentile.
Gentile called the Pell Grant system “kind of antiquated.”
“Our whole push is to get people through faster and better but you can’t do that when someone on a Pell Grant can’t take classes during the summer.”
Gentile told the gathering that NSCC is facing capacity problems at the college.
Turning toward State Sen. Tom McGee at the table, Gentile said, “We have building dedicated to your dad [former Speaker of the House Thomas McGee], a wonderful supporter of higher education, that was built for 1,000 students and we’ve got 3,000 students there. I just left a meeting where I’m trying to figure out how to squeeze in our culinary program and what to do about our cosmetology program, both of whom are losing space at the end of this semester.”
Gentile said the culinary arts are a “high-demand career.”
“I just read in the Business Journal last week how the labor supply, especially in the Boston area, needs more skilled labor,” said Gentile. “We have casinos going up around the corner that we know are going to bring restaurants and yet I can’t find the capacity to grow and expand that program. I have waiting lists off folks who want to get in. These are two wonderful careers for dislocated workers and chronically unemployed and underemployed and yet we’re not making the public investment to make that happen.”
Tierney said the Sixth District has “great, wonderful junior colleges that are all great resources.”
Following the discussion, Tierney and Warren spokewith unemployed workers and toured the career center that is located at 181 Union Street.