FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – As the nation recovers from the recession, a community college in Broward County is taking a different approach to make workforce training available to all.
“Broward UP,” which stands for “Unlimited Potential,” makes education accessible by “meeting students where they are,” by holding free classes and workshops at satellite sites in six local ZIP Codes that have the highest unemployment and lowest educational-attainment rates.
Dr. Mildred Coyne, senior vice president for Broward College Workforce Education and Innovation, said they’ve made agreements with communities and agencies to use their facilities.
“Now we’ve created an intergenerational model, where children are seeing their parents in school while they’re at their favorite Boys and Girls Club,” Coyne explained. “And it’s really just creating a continuous loop of understanding that education is for everyone, and it’s a never-ending, generational loop.”
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Since 2018, more than 2,600 students have taken the free workshops; 95% are students of color, and most are over age 30. Almost 2,000 of them have gone on to pursue certifications in their career fields.
Isabel Gonzalez, chief of staff and vice president of Communications and Community Relations at Broward College, said a degree isn’t always the end goal in this model of learning.
She argued it’s more important to get people ready for what employers will expect of them.
“There’s just so much talk around dropping education credentials when you’re hiring and those kinds of trends, but you still need to demonstrate those skills,” Gonzalez contended.
Bridging the digital divide for students is another part of helping them compete for higher-wage jobs.
Coyne noted in Broward County, high-wage jobs are growing, while low- and middle-wage jobs are on the decline. “Broward UP” is a way for students to increase their economic mobility.
“Just moving people up from the bottom, up one rung, isn’t enough,” Coyne asserted. “It’s not a resilient enough wage, and we saw that really play itself out through the pandemic, and the disproportionate impact that the pandemic and the economic downturn had on our communities of poverty.”
She thinks the Broward College model could work at other schools, by building strong community partnerships.
Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.