This blog post was originally published on on June 7, 2018 and written by Naheed Huq. Click here to view the original post that appears on

SEMCOG’s six community college members are among the most innovative educational institutions in Michigan. This makes them invaluable members of the SEMCOG/MAC Future Skills Task Force, which is developing recommendations to create education and workforce systems that ensure our region has the necessary workforce to continue our economic growth.

Community colleges provide extensive learning opportunities for a broad range of students. To understand how and why they are so impactful, it helps to know a little bit about what they really do.

What Monroe Community College offers

Last week, Monroe County Community College (MCCC) President Kojo Quartey gave us a peek under the hood when he presented the annual State of the College address. He emphasized how the college serves as the center of the community.

One in four graduates of Monroe County schools begin their post-secondary education at MCCC, and about 70 percent of residents have taken classes or have a family connection to the college.

MCCC offers:

  • Low-cost credit and non-credit programs,
  • Associates degrees,
  • Certificate programs of economic value,
  • Personal and professional development courses,
  • Middle College, in partnership with the Monroe County Intermediate School District, and
  • Various short programs focused on connecting people disconnected from the workforce with in-demand skills.

Quartey highlighted new programs in agriculture, auto service, and entrepreneurship. The college also has agreements with local school districts for career technical education and a community farm – programs that complement the rural county’s workforce needs.

Quartey also outlined several new grants to train Monroe County residents for in-demand careers in welding, agriculture, advanced manufacturing, and robotics. This includes a $30,000 grant for a six-week manufacturing boot camp training in robotics, welding, and computer numerical control (CNC). Eighteen of the 19 students in the first cohort graduated from the program, and a second cohort is about to begin.

Investing to improve a community resource

The college is undergoing some major renovations to improve its environment. A new geothermal HVAC system will reduce its yearly energy consumption and save about $5.55 million in electricity, gas, and water costs over the next 20 years. In addition, the college is able to generate about $5 million a year for maintenance and improvement, thanks largely to a successful millage renewal in November 2016. This is being used for updating buildings and technology infrastructure; improving safety; creating learning spaces for today’s education needs; and providing a Student Success Center where students can study, work in teams, and have a reason to stay on campus after class.

Partnering to increase effectiveness

Offering education in high-demand fields is just the beginning, as the college collaborates with K-12 districts and higher education, local businesses, state legislators, and county commissioners, as well as service providers and community partners.

MCCC is also very proud of its strong partnerships with the Monroe County ISD, local school districts, the Foundation at Monroe County Community College and its award-winning VEX Robotics Team. The foundation, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has been an important resource to students and the college. Since 2002, the Foundation at MCCC has awarded 216 Enhancement Grants totaling close to $300,000 to enhance student learning on campus and abroad. The Foundation also supports cultural programming and initiatives, including events at the La-Z-Boy Center, Meyer Theater – a major community asset on the campus of MCCC.

Learning how to compete and win

The highly decorated 85-student strong VEX Robotics Team 3547: VIRUS, is mentored by Jeff Demaray – an Engineering Technician who volunteers at the college with the different teams every day after work. There are 20 teams with students ranging from 3rd grade to university level. Team 3547 members won 43 trophies during the last season at district, states, and the World Championship. Demaray and other volunteer adults coach the teams and help set up competitions across the region. MCCC hosted 265 teams during the year. VEX students learn software such as Solidworks, C++ and, just as importantly, learn about teamwork, collaboration, and time management, which helps to create a “ready-made labor force.”

Monroe County Community College is a community anchor that focuses on connecting with students, the community, and business to create a workforce that is prepared for careers in high-growth areas such as welding and advanced manufacturing. In addition, through the college’s Lifelong Learning programs, community members can earn certificates of economic value in areas such as health care, real estate, equipment operations, and construction and building inspections. They can also take short courses for personal interest and development in areas such as art, dance, and fitness. With the support of an active board of trustees, state legislators, and local community and education leaders, MCCC is preparing its students for future success, connecting with county residents and other stakeholders, and promoting the opportunities available at community colleges.

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