Opportunity Miami
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Opportunity Miami

Workforce readiness: How MDC is building up the academic, digital and soft skills needed for Miami’s future talent

By Miami Dade College President Madeline Pumariega

We live in an exciting era of change, challenge, and transition. We work in a time where globalization, technological innovations, and emerging industries are rapidly disrupting the workforce as we know it. Although the future of work is evolving, what remains constant are three distinct skill sets that students today will need to stay competitive and resilient in securing jobs in the future.

Of course, the first set of skills are the foundational academic skills developed throughout a student’s educational pathway. Academic writing, critical thinking, computation, and research skills are only some of the learning outcomes that translate into abilities, strategies, and habits helping learners succeed in school, their professional careers, and life.

The second set, digital skills, are integral to the progress of a connected, global economy. Digital literacy, digital storytelling, digital marketing, locating, analyzing, and synthesizing information, while using the latest technology tools, are part of a well-rounded education and the lives of digital natives, who now dominate the workforce.

When we look at the future of work artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data analytics, and other technologies are going to significantly drive impact in our businesses and communities. With these changes, digital skills will be an important part of the future of work.

For more than 60 years, Miami Dade College has been preparing Miami’s talent for the jobs of the future — and today, as the local technology ecosystem grows and ushers in a new wave of innovation, we stay true to our commitment to offering educational opportunities that meet the growing demands for a skilled workforce, equipped with academic and technical skills for a successful career.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently projected that more than 500,000 new jobs will be created in the artificial intelligence field by 2029. To prepare tomorrow’s AI workforce, upskill existing professionals, and elevate AI awareness, Miami Dade College recently opened a new cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence Center poised to become Miami’s premier hub for artificial intelligence training. Its conception and vision are the product of strategic partnerships with giants like Knight Foundation, Microsoft, Intel, and IBM.

Through various other partnerships, MDC is continuously providing accessible pathways for students to learn and master their digital skills. Earlier this year, MDC was selected to join the Grow with Google HSI Career Readiness Program, an initiative designed to help students prepare for in-demand jobs through digital skills training and career workshops. Miami Dade College, along with Microsoft, local government, corporate, and community partners have also collaborated to launch Accelerate: Miami. The program provides pathways to employment for the Miami community to bridge the digital skills divide and route people to diverse and equitable hiring and re-employment opportunities.

Along with AI, Cybersecurity has become one of the most in-demand fields, with companies looking for skilled cybersecurity specialists with the digital skills to protect sensitive information and assets. At MDC, we’ve created the Cybersecurity Center of the Americas — one of the newest programs at the college, yet one of the fastest-growing. In just three years, MDC implemented a complete, stackable credential pathway that takes students from industry certifications to an associate’s and bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity.

MDC’s training is for everyone, from novices eager to join the field to seasoned professionals looking to upskill. They train and gain comprehensive training at the College’s Cyberbit Range, participating in ever-evolving, real-world cyberattack simulations. With our first graduates securing and succeeding in internships and coveted jobs, MDC is expanding opportunities and building on creating more industry partnerships that ensure continued program development and community growth. Earlier this year, the National Security Agency (NSA) designated MDC as a National Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Defense, the first college in south Florida to receive this nationally recognized designation.

This brings me to the third, and I believe the most essential set of skills students will need to master — soft skills — also known as future-proof skills. Despite disruptions in the workforce, there is still a need for employers to find talent who are excellent communicators and collaborators, critical thinkers, and problem solvers. Employers are looking to retain individuals who are resilient, adaptive, ethical, culturally competent, and focused on the advancement of the company goals as well as on their professional growth. These foundational skills, which I like to call “enterprise skills” or “human skills,” are learned through work-based learning opportunities.

As the workforce engine of our community, one of MDC’s main priorities is to fuel the talent needs of a global economy by providing all students with access to experiential-based learning such as internships, apprenticeships, research, and practicums to enhance workforce readiness.

As the automotive industry continues to experience technician shortages, for example, MDC and Tesla START have partnered to offer the Advanced Automotive Service Technology — Tesla Technician Career Technical Certificate, an intensive sixteen-week electric vehicle service training program, where students develop technical expertise and earn certifications through a blended approach of in-class theory, hands-on labs, and self-paced learning. Students are taught enhanced soft skills and team-based repair practices. Upon successfully completing the program, graduates have the certification necessary for job placement as Service Technicians at one of Tesla’s Service Centers across the country, including South Florida. This is just one of the various opportunities MDC offers for students to receive on-the-job industry-specific work experience through apprenticeships and internships.

Undoubtedly any individual who adopts these practices is poised to succeed in their career. As a leader of one of the largest institutions in the nation, located in the capital of the Americas, I am committed to MDC building talent and harnessing the ecosystem of Miami to drive the future of our vibrant community and the world. The future is now. Join us and plug into the momentum as we build upon excellence to drive collective impact.

This is the second of an ongoing series with Opportunity Miami’s Academic Leaders Council, which includes the presidents of the University of Miami, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, St. Thomas University, and Barry University, along with the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The essay series, called “The Class of 2040: Essays on the next-generation workforce,” explores how we will meet the talent development needs of the future. Opportunity Miami is powered by Miami-Dade Beacon Council.

Check out the first essay in the series by UM’s President Frenk here.

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