Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos holds roundtable talks at Valencia College

By John W. Davis, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, March 24, 2017, 5:10 PM EDT

Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited Valencia College on Friday, and she took notes.

Literally.

"It's a story that needs to be told more broadly," DeVos said, noting that her trip to the school was a learning experience. "Community colleges are a tremendous option — a tremendous opportunity — and a tremendous on-ramp for many students."

DeVos toured the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Kissimmee as she met with students and staff in learning labs.

"We need to do a much better job of highlighting the important work that community colleges do across this country to help students achieve their goals and their dreams," DeVos said.

After touring the learning labs, DeVos held a roundtable. Students then told her how skilled training has given them a career, not just a job. She also attended a roundtable about the dual-enrollment program at Valencia College.

DeVos said "it doesn't make sense" that students don't have access to summer financial aid.

"The needs of students are changing, and the needs of the workforce and industries are changing significantly," she said. "So, we need to think differently about how we help students pursue their education ... in the way that's going to work best for them."

Paul Threet, who received job training at Valencia, said he had been struggling in the construction field, living paycheck to paycheck.

"Then when the opportunity came for me to actually take a college program and to apply that to a career — not just a job, not just to go out and get a paycheck, but the actual career," he said. "It was amazing for me."

It was a sentiment echoed by DeVos.

"A way to enter a more skilled level of pursuit and some of the credentialing that you've talked about in the process around that is such a common sense approach in my view," she said.