Report Eyes Community Networking to Encourage Adult Training and Career Preparedness

cover8Story & Photo by: Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues

HOUSTON – With the Houston’s northwest corridor lagging in education and job preparedness, Houston Community College is taking on a new challenge of building a strategy to reach the undereducated.

“We want to enlist churches, organizations and others to come together and work with us to build a strategy to improve the education culture in our area,” Dr. Margaret Ford Fisher, HCC President said at a status report meeting with Acres Homes community leaders.“We want education to be affordable and accessible opening the gate of opportunities for a better life to people here.”

The snapshot provided some highlights about the 2013-2014 academic year and an overview of plans for the community and college in coming years.

Houston Community College Northeast has five main instructional sites. They are: Pinemont Campus, Northline Campus, Northeast Campus, North Forest Campus and the Automotive Center.

A new campus has been planned for 2015 for Acres Homes and will focus on skills and workforce development.

In giving her report, Fisher pointed out that the development of the new instructional dynamic, direction, thinking and planning was made possible because of the community and its visionaries who are looking into the future at the needs of the community.

As a result of their work, the college is positioned to meeting the increasing demands of the growing workforce and provide meaningful education programs that will lead to rewarding jobs with great pay.

The Northeast College has grown from a humble beginning with less than 50 students in 1991 to over 30,000 students per year today.

Some of the programs that have garnered national attention and acclaim are the Science Engineering Technologies programs that include petroleum studies, processing, electronics, drafting engineering and instrumentation engineering.

The programs are bursting at the seams and those completing programs have over a 90-percent placement rate with companies like Chevron, Shell, Exxon, marathon, Schulmberger, G.E., G.E. Oil and Gas, Baker-Hughes, Halliburton, City of Houston, Comcast, Weatherford, Jacobs to name a few.

EMT, Police and fire training programs also have high success rates in excess of 97-98%, when it comes to state testing and licensing.

“We continue to celebrate: from successful bond referenda to annexation and from annexation to enormous growth and student successes in educational attainment – We celebrate… our students and our communities,” she said. “We eagerly look to the future with great pride in accomplishment and with great expectations for continued student success.”

Included in the hope and optimism is finding solutions to improving education enrollment and achievement numbers of residents living in  Acres Homes and the Northeast corridor.

Among all the colleges in the HCC system, Northeast has higher than normal numbers when it comes to residents living in low income households, residents unemployed and a higher proportion of young adults over 24 with no college experience.

In 2013, the estimated median household income was $39,346. That is expected to bump up to $42,071 by the 2018 and the median age in the community will be 35. The number of African-Americans living in Northeast area is projected to decrease slightly, while the number of Hispanics is expected to increase by about 2-percent. The number of Anglo/Whites is expected to decrease by just under 1-percent.

Voters had previously approved a $150.8 million Capital Improvement Plan. The bond referendum passed by a majority of 56.5 percent of the voters.

In 2003, HCC’s Referendum promised to Purchase and Expand (Purchase & Classroom expansion ) the Pinemont campus.  Because of a possible environmental hazards, the college did not proceed with  project.

Plans are in motion for a new campus to replace the leased Pinemont learning site.

This campus will have a new building to house workforce and academic programs and student support services.

The College and President of Northeast and Chancellor asked for support for their 2012 Bond Referendum  and assured the Acres Homes community that  $73 million that has been allocated to support expansion of Northeast College and targeted for a new Workforce Building and parking garage, with 600 to 1200 additional parking spaces, for the Northline Campus.

Northeast College will also develop a new campus for the North Forest community. That campus will initially have a Workforce Building and an Early College High School is planned as well.

Residents and supporters want to be sure not only that the college brass keep its promises, but also their input, plans and concerns are heard and fully followed through.

According to Fisher, the goal is to develop a strategy that will seek out a way to changed the demographics by increasing educational opportunities and household incomes while reducing unemployment.

One such plan being considered to help prepare and reshape the education landscape in the Northeast is the possibility of putting in a plan similar to the Spartanburg Village Network.

It is a plan launched two years ago in  that community to help local families wanting to improve their lives and communities.

It was formed and members of churches, civic groups and other professionals who gathered to focus on ways to united and make a difference in the community and come up with winning ways to help families in areas ranging from education to fiances. Included in their priorities also were improving graduation rates in reducing dropout rates by motivating youth and teaching them the value of education. Plans were also developed to deal with other community issues like housing and health, wellness and financial planning.

Fisher said she hope a visit in the Fall from members of that network will help HCC develop and tailor an education and community plan to fit the needs of the Northeast education corridor.

“We want to know the successes, failures and pitfalls of what they are doing,” Fisher said. “Our hopes are to gather the ideas and develop a unique plan for us and move forward with our community.”

 

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