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Biden administration visits Nash Community College to discuss career-centered education

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President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited Nash Community College Friday to discuss how connecting education to careers prepares students for jobs with family-sustaining wages in North Carolina and beyond. 

The visit is part of Biden’s Investing in America Tour. 

The first lady opened the visit by talking about the various postsecondary paths students can take after high school graduation. She said most people define postsecondary success by one thing: getting a four-year degree. But, that path isn’t for everyone, she said, and it doesn’t mean a four-year degree is the only path for success. 

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and President Biden. Emily Thomas/EducationNC

“That’s why (President Biden) is bringing together our entire government to bridge the gap between learning and earning,” she said.

She went on to discuss ways that students can forge their postsecondary paths, mentioning those who complete college courses in high school. In North Carolina, the dual-enrollment program known as Career and College Promise is designed so that students can earn college credit tuition-free while still in high school. 

Other high school students are able to complete credentials through apprenticeship programs.

“They can train in growing industries and find great jobs with associate degrees,” the first lady said. “Now a lot of these programs aren’t new. But here’s what is – jobs.”

The president’s Investing in America agenda is about strengthening the nation’s infrastructure and creating millions of jobs in growing industries like clean energy and manufacturing, the first lady said. 

She went on to lay out what this investment looks like, commenting that it starts with free high-quality universal preschool and high school experiences for students that prepare them for the next steps of their educational careers. 

Before President Biden took the podium, the first lady introduced America Alonso-Gomez, a Center for Industry, Technology, and Innovation High School student and pre-apprentice enrolled in the clean vehicles program at Nash Community College. 

During her speech, Alonso-Gomez said she wants to help create a better future for everyone. 

President Biden began his address by saying that community colleges were the best kept secret in America. 

North Carolina is home to 58 community colleges, offering everything from GEDs to industry-recognized credentials to transfer pathways that open doors to four-year colleges and universities.

But this best kept secret isn’t being kept secret anymore, he said. Throughout his speech, the president painted a picture of manufacturing and industry through the years, saying, “Too many good manufacturing jobs were moved overseas.” 

But now, those jobs are coming back, he said. 

The president went on to discuss the jobs that are being created and the training that is taking place right here in North Carolina, including VinFast and Wolfspeed. 

“You can’t have advanced manufacturing without a highly trained workforce,” Biden said. “They don’t go together.” 

He then talked about how community colleges are educating and training people for the jobs of the future. He also discussed the investments made in community colleges and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) over the years, noting how North Carolina A&T State University graduates more Black engineers than any other college in the nation. 

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.