By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Ann Valentine emphasized the importance of workforce development in her Friday meeting with members of the community at John Wood Community College.
Valentine, 56, was the second of four candidates for the JWCC presidency to take part in a two-day interview this week. She is the chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College in Wabash Valley, Ind.
"Educational institutions need to keep up with what the market needs," Valentine said. "We need to be thinking about our product line, just like a business does. What might be some additional certificates or degrees we can add to what is already in place?
"If we are to keep up with the global economy, we have to improve our educational achievement, especially at the post-secondary levels."
Valentine followed Douglas Brauer, vice president of economic development and innovative workforce solutions at Richland Community College in Decatur. He was in Quincy earlier this week.
The remaining two finalists -- from an original pool of 45 candidates representing 26 states -- will interview next week. Carlee Drummer, executive director of college advancement at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, and Michael Elbe, JWCC's vice president for student services, complete the list of finalists.
By the time their interview process is complete, each candidate will have met with staff, faculty, students, search committee, the Board of Trustees and members of the community.
Higher Plain, a Jacksonville-based search firm, was hired by JWCC to conduct a nationwide search and put together an original list of 10 finalists that was eventually trimmed to four.
Valentine's accent on workforce development also includes strengthening accreditation agreements between local high schools and community colleges. She believes that kind of arrangement allows for an easier transition from high school to college.
"There's a big difference in being a high school senior and a college freshman," she said.
Developing stronger relationships between community colleges and the K-12 sector of the education process also is a must in the coming years, Valentine feels.
"There's a lot of communication and sharing (of information) that needs to happen," Valentine said.
Community college students' on-site training, particularly within the manufacturing industry, will become even more vital in the coming years, Valentine said.
She said a community college must be in tune with changing needs in the workforce it is attempting to serve. Valentine singled out the growing need for welders, a profession that has become a hotbed for women, whose motor skills "make them more attractive" to manufacturers.
Valentine has 33 years of professional experience, including 25 in higher education. She has worked in five different states, which she believes gives her a different kind of perspective -- "I like thinking creatively" -- when it comes to issues such as state funding, a sore spot in Illinois in recent years. The state has been running behind in its payments to community colleges for several years.
Valentine said she also is comfortable working with politicians for advancement of the needs of colleges where she has been employed.
"It is important to keep politicians abreast of the success stories tied to the money they helped provide," she said.
Before working at Ivy Tech, Valentine was president of Minnesota State Community and Technical College for six years. She also has served as vice president and provost at Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin, dean for instructional services and chief academic officer at Independence Community College in Kansas, and dean for general education at Moraine Park Technical College in Wisconsin.
Valentine also has had roles at the University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community (Iowa) College and the Iowa Department of Revenue.
A successor to retiring JWCC President John Letts is expected to be named about March 1. If all goes as scheduled, a new president will be approved at the March 19 board meeting.