President Barack Obama on June 8 made his fourth visit to Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), a National Training Center member of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC), returning to the Alexandria Campus, where he toured the Automotive Department with Program Head Ernest Packer.
Obama made an announcement about a major expansion of the Skills for America’s Future initiative, which is designed to improve the alignment between businesses seeking skilled workers and educational institutions like NOVA that are preparing tomorrow’s workforce with industry skills.
Obama was greeted by NOVA President Robert Templin Jr., Vice President George Gabriel and Provost Peter Maphumulo before receiving the tour. Obama visited a Drive to Employment class where he learned how the Drive to Employment program assists low-income clients.
The President highlighted the experience of NOVA graduate David Korelitz, who told Obama the automotive program was the spark he needed to get his career started.
“Lighting a spark; that’s what community colleges can do,” the President said. “That’s what learning a new skill or training in a new field can do. And, that’s the reason that I’m here today.”
Packer, who teaches the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technology course, explained that NOVA includes six campuses; enrolls 74,000 students; and employs 1,900 full-time instructors.
During Obama’s visit, Packer and his students demonstrated their knowledge of the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid. In addition, the school has two Toyota Prius models and a Honda Insight; Packer also is looking forward to the upcoming delivery of a Chevy Volt on campus.
“We showed him what we had going on in our classroom in regards to employment,” Packer noted. “If I have a student looking for work at independent (automotive) shops, he is more likely to get hired because he has the knowledge. Shop owners want that student who has the knowledge.”
Obama also relayed a conversation he had with Packer about the types of jobs NOVA graduates can obtain.
“It’s interesting, I was talking to Ernie, and he was saying how a lot of the young people who go through this program, they think initially that they can only get a job at a dealership,” Obama said. “And, then they realize that there are a whole range of possibilities out there. You might end up working for a company maintaining its fleet. You might end up working for NTSA, making sure that automobile safety is practiced all across the country.”
To see a slide show of the President’s visit to NOVA, click here.