President Obama’s national plan to educate and train more technical skilled workers is a plan that Essex County College President Dr. Gale Gibson has embraced. Gibson, who is a 2014 Executive Women of New Jersey honoree, told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the school completed a strategic plan to implement President Obama’s call.
“Currently we completed our strategic plan which looked at seven strategic directions which actually aligned very well with President Obama’s completion agenda for community colleges and some of the areas are in workforce development and increasing skills, especially in the science, technology, engineering and math fields,” said Gibson.
With STEM technology, Gibson said that the school wants to get more students in the Newark/Essex County area into jobs right away.
At Essex County College, in order to prepare students, Gibson said that the college had to increase partnerships with industries and businesses in order to find out their needs so that programs for students could be created. The college also needed to look for additional funding and has applied for several grants. According to Gibson, the college received more than $4 million for new certificate programs in cyber security, health information technology and logistics applied management.
Changes in infrastructure are also needed to accommodate capacity on campus. More classroom space and additional software are needed on the campus, said Gibson.
According to Gibson, Essex County College is doing many things to serve a broad spectrum of students.
Currently Gibson said that she hopes to increase the retention and graduation rates.
“This is my focus right now. My vision is to increase the retention and graduation rate at Essex County College,” said Gibson.
Since she became the president at Essex County College, Gibson said that the retention rate increased from 5 percent to 8 percent over the last two and a half years. To come up with that figure, the school tracks full-time students who start college for the first time during the fall semester for three years. The rate has continued to increase.
As more students graduate, Gibson said that she feels the college has done its job.
“I felt like we have done our job,” said Gibson. “That we’ve been accountable and that we have prepared another person to enter the workforce, who can not only change the quality of their lives, but it will also change the quality of the family, the household that they are in.”