ECC board candidates discuss ideas for developing future workforce

Updated 3/1/2019 5:12 PM
  • Adriana Barriga-Green

    Adriana Barriga-Green

  • Nazneen Hashmi

    Nazneen Hashmi

  • Shane Nowak

    Shane Nowak

  • Clare Ollayos

    Clare Ollayos

  • Ryan Weiss

    Ryan Weiss

Five candidates running for two seats on the Elgin Community College board say the college needs to expand its offerings to better cater to the evolving needs of a future workforce and offer different ideas on how to accomplish it.

Incumbents Clare Ollayos and Ryan Weiss, both of Elgin, and challengers Adriana Barriga-Green and Shane Nowak, both of Elgin, and Nazneen Hashmi of Streamwood are vying for 6-year terms on April 2. They recently met with the Daily Herald editorial board to discuss their candidacies.

Hashmi, 58, an auditor and adjunct professor, said ECC could make more grants available for people in-between jobs or for laid off workers seeking retraining and certification to switch careers.

"There are housewives who cannot go out because they have kids ... these women want to work from home," said Hashmi.

She added that ECC could create online certificate programs for certain fields of study, such as cosmetology and medical billing, that students can complete from home.

"We should offer evening classes, weekend classes so it will be helpful for those who are working full-time during the day to go to school," she said.

In some cases, certifications are valued higher than master's degrees earning workers better pay, Hashmi said.

Barriga-Green, 54, said ECC was instrumental in helping her change careers from business to becoming a dual language teacher in Elgin Area School District U-46.

She supports the college expanding certificate programs in trade sciences, such as electrical, plumbing, pipe fitting, electric vehicle infrastructure, environmental studies and sustainability, in keeping with industry trends, and offering more choices in health professions, such as veterinary science and medical imaging.

"As technology changes so quickly, people are going to be displaced and they need to retrain for the next job," she said. "We need to make sure the college is staying one step ahead to be able to train that workforce that we are going to need three, five years down the road."

Nowak, 38, a patient advocate and ECC alumnus, suggests the college partner with local companies to gauge what type of workers they need and tailor its certification and training accordingly.

He urged expanding access and providing more online classes for district residents as a means of growing enrollment and bringing in more tuition revenue. Partnering with local hospitals to provide more health certifications that nurses are required to have would complement the college's existing nursing program, he said.

Ollayos, 64, a chiropractic physician elected to the ECC board in 1995, supports increasing industry internship opportunities for students of all ages.

"My push would be we develop more robust internships and connections with our businesses," she said. "For really decades, a lot of union apprenticeships ... it's been really separate from the community college system. There are some discussions now going on about how can we work better together."

She added that the college needs to lobby legislators to help expand the eligibility criteria for government Pell grants for low-income students to include shorter certificate programs.

Weiss, 42, president of SEAM Strategies in Elgin appointed to the board in December 2017 to fill a vacancy, said launching new courses could be expensive and the college should ensure new programs are aligned with the needs of local employers.

He cautioned that while offering more online courses has certain advantages, ECC would be competing with already existing online programs not only regionally, but nationally.

"It would take quite a bit of resources to do well," said Weiss adding, creating more robust internships in partnership with local businesses is critical.

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