It was the first plane ride for a Metropolitan Community College student, and his destination, Colorado, brought him to the table for a very important conversation: the status of workforce education in the United States.
Gary Duffey is an MCC Board of Trustees scholarship recipient and a nontraditional student who will graduate in December with an associate degree in applied sciences. Duffey traveled with Jackie Gill, Ed.D., president of MCC-Business & Technology, to attend the event hosted by Emily Griffith Technical College and the Emily Griffith Foundation, Nov. 11-12 in Denver and Vail, Colo.
Duffey said he enjoyed the trip, airplane and all. “Getting to see the scenery, the travel to the airport and the mountains was a memorable part for me,” he says.
He and Gill both took part in discussion panels at the event.
The Touching Tomorrow Symposium is billed as a leadership roundtable on the future of workforce education featuring “some of the smartest thinkers” in education and business, including students. The goal was “to conduct an in-depth assessment of the forces that will shape the future of the middle class.” In coming years, about half (47 percent) of jobs are expected to be “middle skill,” requiring post-secondary education but not a college degree.
Duffey has been balancing a busy work and school life for 3-1/2 years at MCC, taking classes at all five campuses during his journey. He says he appreciated the opportunity to give feedback from a student’s perspective on the trade school education system. He not only will have his degree when he finishes, but also MCC’s HVAC certificates.
Duffey’s advice for others looking to determine a successful career path? “I would advise a student, depending on age, to go into one of these programs and stick with and really learn it. The skills trade is not only good to fall back on, but also a good steppingstone into the future.”
Gill says MCC was very well represented by Duffey, “who shined among all the students who were present.”
“Sharing his story on how his technical education has helped him personally and professionally made an impact on the entire audience,” she says.
Gills says that her experience at the event confirmed that MCC is on the right track as it relates to stackable credentials, technical programs and workforce education.
“As I participated in the educators roundtable with esteemed chancellors and presidents from around the country, I was excited to hear that many of the activities and programs that MCC is currently pursuing is right in line with national, state, and local trends,” Gill says.
“I was proud to share some of the great things happening at MCC, such as our FOCUS program and state workforce programs, including MoManWINs and MoHealthWINs, as well as all of the phenomenal workforce programs we offer on the MCC-Business & Technology campus.”
Duffey is self-employed, providing job oversight for HVAC work in residential and light commercial applications. He specializes in the replacement of expired residential HVAC equipment to meet or exceed Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings set forth by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute. After MCC, he intends to continue in the HVAC field.
MCC has been “a big growth time in my life, and it has motivated me to become more and be a better caretaker for my family,” Duffey says.
A summary of the recommendations from the symposium will be included in a report to be delivered to then-President Donald Trump, the new U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.