A Lady with a Purpose
The President of Miami Dade College, the Wolfson Campus, on training and retooling skills for for a new finance and tech job market, and hospitality.
The Wolfson Campus sits in the heart of our exuberant City of Miami,” she observed. “ Diversity, necessity, and opportunity combine to give Miami its creative energy. In this sort of environment, innovation is more likely. I see asset after asset, and that asset-based approach towards the community in which we educate allows us to partner with stakeholders to build a better education for our students and a stronger public sphere.”
Downtown News: Speaking of partnerships, tell us about the influx of tech companies from New York and California and the relationship with the College.
Beatriz Gonzalez: Miami Dade is a community college. Our focus is on getting students into the workforce immediately. Our focus is on human work at a time when machines are doing what people used to do. During the last recession, 5 million jobs were lost and never came back. So, one goal is to attach people to meaningful jobs, where they feel fulfilled and are able to contribute more to society. Colleges have to expand how they think about work. MDC is doing that. Working with the many tech companies that are coming to Miami we had to rethink and reshape our programs, so they are of high level. I think we are doing it with things such as cyber security, or cloud computing. But at the same time, we must think how we can help all students develop the deep critical thinking that is necessary to compete with machines. Do the jobs that only people can do. We don’t want to train students to have just specific skills, but also train them how to reason ethically or serve people with empathy. Machines can’t do that, despite the advances in artificial intelligence.
Programs Relevant for Downtown Residents
DN: What kind of feedback do you get from local employers and the companies coming to Miami as to what programs to develop?
BG: They are interested in all things assisted by technology. FinTech, to give you an example, is very popular. How technology is revolutionizing the world of finance, how businesspeople use technology to make predictions and plan their logistics. Also wealth management, even though the economy is taking a hit right now, is high growth. The confluence of technology and business. The hospitality industry, for which Miami is very famous for… Hotels are popping up, and the industry is ready to go… For the last year we have been helping prep their people on issues like safety. And healthcare is always important.
DN: The population in Downtown is young, mostly college educated. Given the Pandemic and disruptive emerging technologies, many have to retool their skills, or change careers all together. How can MDC help?
BG: We offer certificate programs that are much shorter, and focused on specific sets of skills. We have them in cloud computing, IT, digital marketing, etc. Imagine, you got a bachelor’s in marketing seven, ten years ago, and now a certificate in digital marketing would be really great to upskill yourself. People might think community colleges are the place where you do the first two years and then go on to get a bachelor. But really, it’s so much more than that now. You can get a bachelor at MDC, and post bachelor’s certificates. We have a business innovation and technology center where seminars are offered all the time. It can be four hours on Facebook strategies for my new business. Very targeted learning that helps you bring new value to an employer, or perhaps to your own business.
DN: Miami is known for its entrepreneurial spirit. How can MDC help those thinking of opening a business?
BG: We do have college certificates in entrepreneurship. And we also have the Idea Center, dedicated to entrepreneurs — starting entrepreneurs and those established that feel a little stuck and need a new skill set. The Idea Center is home to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, an investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital and business support services.
MDC, the Wolfson Campus, is also a cultural force within the Downtown community. It anchors the world-famous Miami Book Fair, the Miami Film Festival, and the Museum of Architecture and Design at the historic Freedom Tower. I can’t think of a better ambassador for MDC than its president, Dr. Beatriz Gonzalez.