Maine Trails, June - July '13
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Washington County Meeting

The readiness is all

WCCC’s Cassidy talks about preparing Maine students for the new workplace

Dr. William Cassidy has seen a lot of change in academics and workforce development over the past 38 years. That is how long he has been involved in post-secondary education. His most recent stint has been as interim president of Washington County Community College (WCCC) in Calais, a post he was named to in 2012. He retired from that post two weeks after he addressed the Washington County Meeting of the MBTA, June 13 at the Eastport Chowder House in Eastport. The meeting was attended by more than 65 MBTA members and friends, including former Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, Eastport Selectman Karen Raye, guests of CPM Constructors, who also brought Perry Harbormaster Captain Gerald Morrison and his family. Also attending were Eastport Port Authority Executive Director and County Commission Chair Chris Gardner and the Honorable Vinton Cassidy, a former Maine senator who served on the Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee and is also a Washington County Commissioner. Vint recently retired from his teaching post at the college.
 
Bill Cassidy was the featured speaker at the meeting, and he took the opportunity to introduce his nephew Joseph Cassidy to the group. The younger Cassidy, a long-time educator, former district attorney for Washington County and mayor of Calais, recently had been nominated as the new president of WCCC (he officially became president of the college on July 1).
 
The senior Cassidy offered an insider’s view of the school for the MBTA members assembled, many who rely on the community college as a steady source of skilled labor. The school is a major player in workforce development in Downeast Maine and offers several courses of study that lead to careers in transportation and construction, including studies in automotive technologies, heavy equipment operations, heavy equipment maintenance and preparatory courses that connect students to bachelor and masters degree programs at the University of Maine’s construction management technology program and Maine Maritime Academy.
 
Cassidy said one of the biggest changes during his nearly four decades in post-secondary education has been the growing need for schools to provide a broad network of support services. He likens it to the school becoming an extended family of sorts, an organization that nurtures students as they transition to their professional lives. WCCC provides students with just about everything they need to thrive in school, from remedial math and science courses and career-building skills – workplace safety, communications and teamwork – that will serve them well in any career they may choose. The school also offers life skills, including campus cooking classes and access to a student food pantry for those struggling to make ends meet as they work to improve their lives. There also is an emphasis on instilling a sense of community among students, and the school encourages them to get involved in community service projects.
 
According to Cassidy, WCCC academic and student life programs are all about “work readiness” and preparing graduates with much more to offer employers than just entry level skills. He said WCCC graduates are “ever ready to change and grow on the job.”
 
That approach of caring for the whole student has worked, garnering WCCC recognition among its peers, including a Top 10 Community College ranking by the Aspen Institute for student retention and graduation rates.
 
The Washington County Meeting is the first in a series of annual summer MBTA events, and MBTA President Tom Gorrill served as the evening’s emcee. Gorrill thanked Pathfinder and Innovator sponsors Chadwick-BaRoss and Wyman & Simpson for their support and updated members on developments in Augusta where the 126th Maine Legislature was just wrapping up its first session. He also spoke of the organization’s progress on initiatives including the Fix It Now! campaign. Eastport Port Authority’s Chris Gardner also spoke and welcomed the MBTA to his city and talked about recent developments at the Port of Eastport.
 
FMI: The MBTA hosts several regional forums addressing current issues, including transportation, education, the economy and trade. To learn more, visit the Events page at www.MBTAonline.org.
 
2013 MBTA Washington County Meeting
Pathfinder Sponsor: Chadwick-BaRoss
Innovator Sponsor: Wyman & Simpson
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