President Obama Returns to NOVA to Expand on Workforce Initiative

President Barack Obama toured the Alexandria automotive facilities with faculty and students.
President Barack Obama toured the Alexandria automotive facilities with faculty and students. Photo by Kevin Mattingly

On June 8, President Barack Obama made his fourth visit to NOVA, returning to the Alexandria Campus where he signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 just 15 months earlier. Obama used this opportunity to announce a major expansion of the Skills for America’s Future initiative, designed to improve the alignment between businesses seeking skilled workers and educational institutions like NOVA that are preparing tomorrow’s workforce with industry skills.

Obama was greeted by President Robert G. Templin, Jr., Vice President George Gabriel and Provost Peter Maphumulo before receiving a tour of the Engineering Building by Automotive Technology Program Head Ernie Packer.

President Obama with Program Head Ernie Packer and instructor Reg Bennett.
President Obama checked under the hood of a Ford Fusion with Program Head Ernie Packer (facing the camera) and instructor Reg Bennett. Photo by Kevin Mattingly

Obama visited a Drive to Employment class taught by automotive instructor Keith Brown where the president learned how the Drive to Employment program assists low income clients with receiving automotive repair work at only the cost of parts. This classroom normally holds courses for the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (GMASEP) and, in his remarks after the tour, the president cited the GM program as an exemplary educational model that provides practical employment experience for students and positions them for full-time employment upon graduation. Obama also visited an alternative fuels class led by instructor Reg Bennett and inspected the engine of a Ford Fusion hybrid electric vehicle.

Following the tour, the president talked to an audience that included Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Representative Jim Moran, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, leaders from education, philanthropy and business, and NOVA students and faculty.

“It is great to be back at NOVA. I come here often enough that I think I should be getting some credits,” Obama joked.

Obama highlighted the experience of NOVA graduate David Korelitz who told Obama the automotive program was the spark he needed to get his career started.

“Lighting a spark; that’s what community colleges can do. That’s what learning a new skill or training in a new field can do. And that’s the reason that I’m here today,” the president said.

Obama’s visit could not have happened without the hard work and dedication of many people, including Packer and the entire Automotive Technology Program, Aurang Zeb and the Facilities Department team, Community Relations Coordinator Ken Balbuena who also coordinates the GMASEP automotive pro- gram, the NOVA Campus Police department and, in particular, Deputy Police Chief Gerry Tolson, Lieutenant John DeGurse, Lieutenant John Weinstein, and Campus Police Officer William Spaulding, IT Manager Dave Babel, Director of Emergency Planning Will Flagler, and the Alexandria Campus Provost Office.

To learn more, read Obama’s remarks or watch the video.