Pellissippi State president visited Belgium

Knoxville, TN—Allen Edwards has been committed to bringing the world to Pellissippi State Technical Community College since 1993, when he was named president of the institution. Among the many international opportunities for students he has been behind: a sports exchange program with Cherbourg, France; choir tours to Poland and France; and study abroad through the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, a statewide organization Edwards co-founded that is housed at the college.

Now Edwards is taking his knowledge of and enthusiasm for community colleges to the world. Later this month, he is scheduled to speak at a two-day European Union conference in Brussels, Belgium.

Edwards and other speakers at the June 23-24 Forum on the Future Workforce: New Strategies for New Demographics will offer solutions for Europe’s dilemma: a dwindling workforce coupled with low birthrates that is threatening economies.

The conference is sponsored by the European Commission and AARP International. The European Commission is the executive branch of the EU, which is composed of 27 nation states. Sessions will be presented by speakers of English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

“Europe is not growing,” he said. “The population is very stagnant and is in many cases on the decline.”

Edwards will discuss the role community colleges can play in keeping older workers’ skills current, thereby keeping people in the workforce longer.

The number of young workers needed to support those who retire has declined so much that the EU has set two goals for 2010: The Stockholm Target aims to increase the average employment rate among people ages 55-64 years to 50 percent, and the Barcelona Target seeks to delay retirement by five years.

“The European Union is looking for policies to implement that would help sustain their workforce,” he said. “My role is to talk about the community college providing access to retraining employees. I think the key thing about community colleges in America is that we’re so readily available to the people.”

Conference topics include Combating Age Discrimination and Promoting Age Diversity in the Workplace, Lifelong Learning and Training, Financial Considerations for Working Longer and Making Workplaces and Working Time More Accommodating.

Edwards is co-founder and president of the International Association of Colleges, an organization for community and technical colleges that has hosted conferences on technical educational issues in South Africa, the Netherlands, Great Britain and the United States.

The IAC co-sponsored the 2008 World Congress and International Association of Colleges Conference in New York in February.