Miami Dade College President Dr. Eduardo Padron discusses the triumphs and challenges of creating a competitive workforce in today’s economy

What niche does Miami Dade College (MDC) occupy in the educational landscape of South Florida?  

In Miami-Dade County, it is hard to find a household that has not been touched by this college. Like myself, many of this county’s leaders – the mayor, commissioners, 17 bank presidents – are MDC graduates. They are also immigrants, and when they first arrived to Miami, MDC was the only college accessible to them, the only means for them to realize their American dream.

We have also played a key role in building Miami-Dade’s cultural infrastructure. Miami used to be referred to as a “cultural wasteland.” We came here and started the Miami Book Fair International, the Miami International Film Festival, MDC Live Arts – these were the precursors to the big developments in the arts that have taken place in recent years. We take a great deal of pride in this institution being a real community anchor.

What is MDC’s strategy for workforce development?

We have clustered our programs around the target industries identified by the Beacon Council. We have strong linkages with the business community, with over 700 local business leaders serving as advisors for our programs. If a program does not exist, we work hand in hand with business and industry to develop it.

Like much of the U.S., Miami is a predominantly small business community. As such, we cultivate entrepreneurship and innovation to give SMEs the tools to bring their business to the next level.

To further identify gaps, we conducted an exhaustive survey of collegiate programs in the U.S. to learn which programs we needed to either create or enhance to better serve the local community. This is how we created the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical and bioinformatics programs, as well as the robotics engineering, data analytics, cybersecurity, animation and game development programs.

How do you envision the local workforce evolving?

Our goal is to ensure that the local talent are equipped to meet the rapidly changing needs of industry. For instance, the county is looking to grow its film industry. In response, we created a film school, so that if a production company wanted to shoot here, they would only need to call us and we would provide them with everything they needed, from equipment to personnel. If production companies had to bring their own personnel here, it would make the process more expensive for them, and Miami less attractive as a filming destination.

That said, technical competence, while necessary, is not sufficient to developing a competitive workforce. Soft skills are critical too. What really helps students succeed is to be able to engage in critical thinking – we place great value on liberal arts for this reason. We work to develop students who can adapt to a rapidly changing workforce, contribute to their society and become lifelong learners.