The Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation (PMEDC) has joined the growing list of organizations urging voters to approve a $31 million bond issue that will help fund construction of an expanded Monroe Campus of Northampton Community College (NCC) in Tannersville.
“We understand that $31 million is a lot of money, especially given the current economy, but any project that increases the skills of our workforce and provides opportunities for re-training is really a win-win for all of us,” says Leonard.
The most important aspect to the attraction of new industry today is the quality of the local workforce. Areas with community colleges that provide a broad range of associate degree programs and continuing education opportunities make an indispensable contribution to building the critical skills necessary for the jobs of the future.
The expansion of the educational opportunities available in our community is as critical as improving our road, water and sewer infrastructure. This has been proven by a variety of annual surveys of site selection consultants.
This is not an unusual model for funding a project like this. In communities like ours, where our school districts have so many challenges many counties step in to assure funding for the community college.
Leonard says that while the construction jobs related to the building phase and the staff positions at the completed campus are important advantages to the county economy in the short term; the greatest economic benefits will come after the campus is completed.
“We’ll begin seeing the greatest economic impact of this project two to four years down the road,” says Leonard.
“Monroe County has terrific proximity advantages and with an inventory of sites approved as Keystone Opportunity Zones, more companies have us on their radar. Having the workforce that those companies need – or the programs to train potential workers – is critical if we’re going to win those projects.
An expanded NCC Monroe Campus will provide programs to meet existing workforce needs, and help students acquire skills relevant to the changing marketplace. It will also provide opportunities for additional workforce training for those workers affected by the changing job environment. It is so important to have a educational institution to provide a wide variety of re-training programs for dislocated workers.
Leonard says that in addition to programs that will train students for existing jobs at Tobyhanna Army Depot, sanofi pasteur, and Pocono Medical Center, NCC Monroe will compliment and expand upon offerings at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) and Monroe Career and Technical Institute (MCTI).
“People may feel as though there is plenty of educational capacity but more than 1,000 Monroe County students attend community colleges in the surrounding counties. Our future economic vitality depends on providing opportunities for those students closer to home,” he says.
“The administration at NCC Monroe tells us they’re planning to expand their Hospitality and Tourism Management programs to include casino related jobs; expand their Computer Science offerings to include five new programs; and provide a number of programs that are not available in the marketplace, including Construction Management, Business Management, Biology, Chemistry, and Electronics Technology.”
Leonard says that those offerings, and the continuing collaboration between MCTI, NCC Monroe, and ESU through the 2+2+2 workforce training program, will give the county the robust technical and post-secondary education programs it needs to compete with its regional neighbors.
“We compete with our regional neighbors and the world for every major job producing project,” says Leonard. “An expanded NCC Monroe Campus is a weapon that will make those battles more winnable.”