COCONUT CREEK (CBS4) – During his state of the union address, President Obama recognized a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic.  Jackie Bray was retrained and is now operating a gas turbine factory in Charlotte.

Her new job was possible because her employer Siemens formed a partnership with a community college.  The college designed courses in laser and robotics and re-trained Bray.  The president implored more partnerships between businesses and community colleges to get people back to work.

In South Florida, Broward College and Miami-Dade College already have formed partnerships with area businesses and are helping the unemployed get back to work.

“We are still a huge manufacturer of mega-yachts.  They needed workers and we created a program to supply the workers,” Broward College president David Armstrong told CBS4’s Joan Murray.

More recently, Armstrong said, they created a global trading logistics program to address all the goods that are coming through South Florida ports and by rail.

Armstrong also said small manufacturers are looking for skilled workers to turn out their products and the college is eager to offer programs to accommodate those companies.

In addition, the college has a vast health sciences program at their Coconut Creek location that is training people to serve the ever growing aging population.

There you can be retrained in health information management, nursing, optometry and respiratory care.

Ileana Perez is about to graduate and launch her new career in eye care. Two years ago, Perez was helping to run her husband’s roofing business.

But when the economy tanked, Perez knew she had to find a different path.

“Running a business to becoming a student was a difficult transition,” she said. “But this is for my family to be able to survive.”

Area hospitals recruit and sometimes even pay the tuition for Broward College nursing graduates and as health records increasingly become computerized, medical staffs will have to be re-trained.  The college has an eye toward that re-training.

President Obama urged local governments to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers.  Places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.


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