We are glad that North Country Community College will get a $20,950 grant to provide free tuition to train unemployed or underemployed people as addiction counselors. It's part of a half-million-dollar stimulus package distributed by the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to 14 OASAS training providers.
On one hand, this will provide more local students with good career training. Addiction counseling is one of the top 10 fastest-growing occupations nationwide, and the demand for counselors exceeds the supply, according to OASAS.
On another hand, training these people will help feed the future labor needs of Saranac Lake's own St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center.
The working relationship between this NCCC program and St. Joe's make Saranac Lake more self-sufficient. St. Joe's is a rare asset around here in these times - an employer that is expanding and has been recognized statewide for being a great place to work. It's also doing a job that society desperately needs, which means that not only are its employees treated well; they can feel good about doing important work. All Saranac Lakers should be proud to have St. Joe's in the community.
To be an addiction counselor at St. Joe's requires specific education, and by offering that right here, NCCC is demonstrating its community conscience as well as a receptiveness to what both local career-seekers and a major local employer want.
This is how community colleges make sense for communities. They help local businesses, give local students more reasons to stay and attract students from other areas who are interested in being here and often go on to become permanent members of the college's surrounding community. All this is on top of a community college's value as a great way for students to save money for their first two years of university, when many are still figuring out what they want to do for a living and don't necessarily want to pay exorbitantly for a core curriculum.
In all these ways, NCCC works well. Yes, there is room for improvement, as in all things, but many of those improvements do happen when the community and the college work together in close communication.
We live in a time when tons of public funding is being thrown around, and when state and federal deficits are ridiculous. There is much confusion over what the role of government should be, and the debate over this issue keeps getting more high pitched.
A small investment in a practical community college program, however, will pay large dividends. It doesn't cost much and provides excellent value.