Fed Chair Janet Yellen Talks Job Training at Tri-C

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, right, meets students enrolled in "Right Skills Now," a program at Tri-C aimed at preparing students for jobs in computer-controlled manufacturing.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, right, with students enrolled in "Right Skills Now," a program at Tri-C aimed at preparing them for jobs in computer-controlled manufacturing. [Adrian Ma / ideastream]
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The country's top economist is looking to a local community college for some insight into the future of American manufacturing employment. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen visited the campus of Tri-C Tuesday to meet students enrolled in the school's Right Skills Now program.

Over the course of eight weeks, those students get a crash course in computer-controlled manufacturing, learning everything from how to read blueprints to operating large metal-cutting machinery. Students who make it through spend eight more weeks as a paid intern for a local company such as Swagelok, Kennametal, or GEM Tool.

“I did this program because it’s basically guaranteed employment when you’re done,” said Jessica Dicus, who started the program in August. Dicus, 37, told Yellen that she hadn't held a full-time job since 2006, but she feels good about her prospects. As long as she shows up to class and does well, the program promises to pave the way to a job as a machinst making around $15 per hour. 

Speaking to school administrators, Chair Yellen said that job training programs like Tri-C’s may help move the country toward fuller employment, “especially now the unemployment rate is low and we hear so many firms are really struggling to find workers.”

A recent estimate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the national unemployment rate around 4.4 percent. But some areas of Northeast Ohio, including Cuyahoga and Lorain counties, are closer to 7 percent unemployment.

Alex Johnson, President of Tri-C, said programs like “Right Skills Now” help address that problem by funneling students toward employers who are hungry for skilled labor. Still, he said the program’s future imapct depends in part on whether it can secure funding from sources other than tuition, which costs around $5,000 per student. To that end, Johnson said he hopes Yellen will carry that message with her back to policymakers in Washington D.C.

“She has a vast and extensive network,” he said, “including the President of the United States.”

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