Inside Stories

Taking It Higher: Education Committee Tours Lowell Campuses

Biotech jobs, dental hygiene and culinary arts were on the menu Monday when the Massachusetts legislative Joint House and Senate Committee came to the Mill City for fact-finding visits with Middlesex Community College and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

More than a half dozen members of the committee, led by Senator Edward Kennedy of Lowell, visited both campuses during a day-long visit to Lowell as part of a state-wide tour the committee has been performing of public higher education institutions across Massachusetts.

Lowell representatives Vanna Howard, Rady Mom, and Rodney Elliott took part in the campus visits as did Senator Jo Comerford, and Representatives David Rogers and Carmine Gentile.

On the afternoon side, MCC President Phil Sisson led the delegation of a tour of the college’s allied health programs on Middle Street – but not before the group took a detour past the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center behind the college’s Cowan Center.

Sisson and Senator Kennedy explained to the group that MCC was interested in helping solve the issue of long-term occupancy and utilization of the property, depending on what happens with the building next.   Sisson talked about potential plans to expand the college’s culinary and hospitality management programs into the bottom floors of the ICC, as well as continuing and expanding the housing options the college has been able to access through its partnership with UMass Lowell under the leadership of Chancellor Julie Chen.

The delegation said they were aware of the ongoing statewide issue regarding the housing of migrant families, but also acknowledged that the number of enrolled families in the state’s emergency assistance placement plans are just about maxed out.  The group said Governor Maura Healey has made it clear that the state’s resources are nearly tapped, and that the Commonwealth is not able to continue absorbing more families past the announced cap of 7,500 families.  As of Monday, the state has accepted 7,439 families according to data on the Commonwealth’s resource website.

From the banks of the lower locks, the group proceeded over to Middle Street, where they visited with students from MCC’s dental hygiene clinic as well as its biotech program, which has a 100% placement rate with industry partners.

“We know our partners in the biotech industry have jobs waiting for our students,” President Sisson told the group.  “We are drawing in students from throughout the state because Massachusetts is ripe for growth in these areas, and our students can actually begin working for these companies while they’re still on campus earning their credits.  The workforce need is there.  We are well poised to help fill it.”

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