Skills to pay bills: Kuster promotes career education

Staff photo by adam UrquharT U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., President of Nashua Community College Lucille Jordan and NCC Continuing Education Coordinator Jon Mason listen to audience members’ comments during Kuster’s ‘Jobs and Opportunity Agenda’ release, on Tuesday.

NASHUA – “We have the jobs and we’re looking for people with the skills to fill those jobs,” is how U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., describes the Granite State’s economy.

Tuesday at Nashua Community College, Kuster released a plan she terms the “Jobs and Opportunity Agenda.” Kuster highlighted the state’s relatively low jobless rate, saying the challenge now is to provide New Hampshire students the training they need to attain employment.

“In New Hampshire, we have a completely different situation than even six years ago when I first went to Congress. At that point, we were talking about jobs and economy,” Kuster said. “Now, we’re in a different situation with 2.6 percent unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the country.”

Kuster said she hopes to help educators match the skills they are teaching with the jobs that are going to be available now and into the future.

“What I’ve tried to do, going around the district in New Hampshire, and Nashua leads the way, is to bring together round tables in every community, employers and educators to have a conversation about how we can break down the silos and how education and skills training can become a normal part of employment, and employment can become a reliable part of education,” Kuster said.

“I think when you look at the future of work and 21st century jobs, these are jobs where the skills are going to change as you go along,” she added.

Those joining Kuster Tuesday included NCC Continuing Education Coordinator Jon Mason, Nashua School District Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center Director Amanda Bastoni, NCC Microelectronics Bootcamp student Echrifa Bouabdellaoui, and NCC President Lucille Jordan.

“We’ve had kids couch surfing and living in cars and now they’re making a decent living,” Mason said in regard to the Microelectronics Bootcamp.

Kuster and Jordan see things moving in the right direction, citing NCC collaborative efforts with employers such as BAE Systems.

Kuster said she’s heard company representatives talk about encouraging young people to stay in the state, and to work on improving the skills of people already here and to welcome new Americans into the workforce. Jordan said there is tuition reimbursement offered through that program, as well.

However, it’s not just manufacturing, as NCC also has a similar partnership with UPS. Kuster said shipping is a growing field because of so many people buying products online.

Bastoni then highlighted career and technical education at the high school level that potentially feed into community college programs.

“CTE is not your parents vocational program: it’s not where we put the ‘other kids.’ It’s really a true college or career pathway. If we can partner with industry to bring speakers in to do on-the-job training, to do summer classes to give kids those experiences, the research says they’ll make choices that we’re looking for with career and college,” Bastoni said.

She said in Nashua, there are nearly 4,000 students participating in 19 programs ranging from automotive to culinary.

“I feel like as I go around New Hampshire, I see that over and over again. It’s the old skills that are there, the manufacturing, whether it’s woodworking, paper or mental working. We’ve got to get back to that, with working with our hands,” Kuster said.

“Either we saddle the next generation with so much debt they can’t own a home, or start a family or live a comfortable life because they’re so worried about their debt… or we come up with different pathways,” Kuster added.

Kuster’s plan can be found online at, https://kuster.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/kuster-announces-jobs-and-opportunity-agenda.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.