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First lady Jill Biden visits Southern Maine Community College

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visits Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) on Wednesday, April 5, as part of the Biden-Harris administration's "Investing in America" tour.
courtesy Maine Community College System (MCCS)
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visits Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) on Wednesday, April 5, as part of the Biden-Harris administration's "Investing in America" tour.

First Lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited Southern Maine Community College in South Portland on Wednesday as part of a tour highlighting the administration's economic policies.

Biden and Cardona visited SMCC's electric vehicle repair certification program to talk with students about everything EV, from diagnosing and servicing electric and hybrid vehicles to reconditioning their batteries. The First Lady said workforce training that connects students with employers at the community college level is the goal of her husband's "Investing in America" agenda.

"This is what Joe has put into, the president, has put into his budget. Manufacturing for infrastructure for clean energy...this is exactly what he put the money in for," Biden said.

Biden highlighted the importance of workforce training at the community college level, and the free community college tuition initiative that has allowed many students displaced by the pandemic to go back to school. Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson said employers are desperate for the young talent being trained here.

"This is an opportunity for them, we're removing the financial barrier," Johnson said. "They're able to get that training, go to work in these companies, or start their own businesses and help us meet our climate goals. So you can start to remove multiple sets of barriers all at once."

Maine's Community College System reports that enrollment grew 12% last fall because of the free tuition legislation for students graduating in 2020 through 2023 that passed the Legislature last Spring. The Governor has included $15 million dollars in funding to extend the program for graduating seniors in 2024 and 2025.

SMCC said the Precision Machining Program is allowing students to intern for Bath Iron Works, Pratt & Whitney, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and others, with a clear path to good paying jobs once they graduate.