Santa Fe College went beyond the fanfare as it celebrated the Aspen Institute naming it for the second time in a row as one of the nation’s Top 10 community colleges.
After the celebration on Thursday (Sept. 4) at the college’s Fine Arts Hall, Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser led a discussion with local business, academic and government leaders about how the college can continue to improve. The focus of the discussion was on preparing students to be well-rounded employees once they graduate. Teaching students life and critical thinking skills will lead to a strong workforce.
Training students as certified nursing assistants isn’t enough, said Ruth Brunner, sales manager of Comfort Keepers. “Do they know etiquette, and do they know how to cook for a client on a low-sodium diet?” she asked.
Young people who don’t have cars need to have training in basic life skills brought to them, said Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad. “They need to learn how to apply for a job online, how to open a checking account and how to set up an email account,” he said.
State Rep. Keith Perry discussed the importance of critical thinking skills. “We need people who are capable of being more than a cog in a machine,” he said.
Along with the frank itemizing of challenges, came commitments to improvement.
CareerSource North Central Florida has funding, largely from the federal government, that could help respond to the needs, said Executive Director Kim Tesch-Vaught. “We can serve anyone – someone with a Ph.D. and someone with the third-grade education,” she said.
Owen Roberts, the new superintendent of Alachua County Schools, noted that he already is working with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We want to align competencies students gain in K-12 with the jobs skills needed in the workforce,” he said.
Tim Giuliani, the chamber’s president and CEO, said that community leaders needed to join with Santa Fe in planning training for future job needs. “In hockey, you don’t skate to where the puck is; you skate to where the puck is going to be,” he said.
Strong talent is crucial to Alachua County being able to compete for new companies, he said.