ACCT Congress Day 2: ACCT Congress Includes Calls for ‘Upskilling’ Workforce, Continued Advocacy

by Mark Toner

October 15, 2021

San Diego, October 15 — During the second day of the ACCT Leadership Congress, keynote speaker Nicholas Pinchuk called strengthening workforce skills “the seminal issue of the time,” telling community college leaders that it “depends on all of you.”

“The thing that differentiates Americans is their skills,” said Pinchuk, president and CEO of Snap-On Tools Incorporated. “That’s where upskilling the workforce becomes so important. That’s why what you do… has never been so important.”

Pointing to the 75 percent of manufacturers which are small businesses that lack the resources to train workers, Pinchuk stressed the importance of supporting community colleges, which he called the “great engine of technical education.”

“We need to demand of our leaders that they support community colleges and the upskilling of the American workforce,” Pinchuk said.

That message was echoed during a packed presentation on federal legislative priorities earlier in the day, which celebrated the unprecedented funding made available to higher education during the pandemic—$71 billion to date—and the work that remains to be done as Congress continues to deliberate further stimulus proposals and the federal budget.

“We can’t do the work in Washington, D.C., without an engaged college administration,” ACCT Senior Vice President Jee Hang Lee told attendees. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us… in the next couple of months.”

The inclusion of the Obama-era proposal to make community college tuition free in the American Families Plan—the so-called human infrastructure component of the Biden Administration’s $7 trillion Build Back Better agenda—is the most visible element of community college proposals that include funding for workforce training programs, increases to the Pell Grant maximum, and support for campus infrastructure needs, which were last addressed at the federal level in the 1990s. 

While the Biden Administration’s proposals have been pared down as deliberations continue in Congress and their future remains uncertain, the inclusion of community college priorities represents “the start of a really exciting conversation,” said Katie Brown, ACCT director of government relations. 

“America’s College Promise has been this idea at the federal level for a really long time, but there wasn’t an opportunity to move it as legislation,” Brown said.

Also Thursday, multiple Congress sessions continued the event’s focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Monty Sullivan, system president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System called the initial conversations that led to a systemwide strategic plan driven by equity “one of the moments I was most proud of with our executive team.”

“When you take actions around a set of values we all aspire to, that’s when good things happen,” Sullivan said. “It has been an absolute game changer for us.”

Three of five ACCT Regional Awards categories were presented on Thursday, including the Regional Equity Awards, Regional Faculty Member Awards and Regional Professional Board Staff Member Awards. Outstanding trustees and college CEOs will receive regional awards this afternoon, followed by an awards gala this evening at which one regional awardee from each category will receive recognition at the national level. The ACCT Leadership Congress continues through Saturday, October 16, with more than 100 workshops and sessions.

The ACCT Leadership Congress continues through Saturday, October 16, with more than 100 workshops and sessions.

For more information, visit http://congress.acct.org. Search #ACCT2021 on Twitter for more from the event.

About ACCT

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond. For more information, go

to www.acct.org. Follow ACCT on Twitter @CCTrustees.