The $133.7 million Madison Area Technical College referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot would finance both new and expanded programs. Project implications are both immediate and long-range. The college enrollment is over 40,000 students. The average student age is 29. Of the 726,000 people who live in the 12-county district, an estimated 410,800 or 57 percent have attended MATC. A long and growing wait list plagues both individual courses and specific programs. The nursing program’s three-year wait list is an example.

A core college mission is to provide education leading to productive employment. New York Times columnist David Brooks made the salient economic reference recently, noting that the national unemployment rate hovers at 9.6 percent; at the same time, positions remain vacant in the absence of workers with appropriate and specific job-related skills. A labor force trained with skills to match existing demands for labor would lower the unemployment rate from 9.6 percent to an estimated 6.5 percent.

Specific training to match regional demand for labor is framed in large part by more than 100 advisory committees representing area business and industry. The college is now stretched beyond its limits to respond adequately given regional employment needs and the high demand for additional training opportunities.

An immediate benefit of referendum passage would be the number of construction and trade jobs created by building two new facilities on the Truax campus -- for health care and protective services training -- and updating other facilities in the district. This would put many back to work quickly. For every $1 million spent on construction, 18 jobs are created.

Longer-range benefits are even more impressive. MATC has the opportunity to become a world-class educational institution providing students with job-ready skills in areas that will be in demand for generations to come.

Forbes Magazine has identified Madison as one of the top 10 innovative cities in the nation. This month’s Chamber of Commerce keynote speaker, Colin Harrison, calls the region’s potential worldwide rather than limited to the U.S. alone. Harrison, creator of the “Smart Cities” initiative at the IBM Research Lab in Zurich, Switzerland, states that “the core issue is our view of the future and our vision of just what we would like to become.” The referendum for expanded capacity at MATC speaks directly to regional prosperity and viability and indeed to international influence and recognition.

A “yes” for the MATC referendum will help assure the development and realization of our regional vision. A “yes” will provide MATC with resources to make significant contributions to the necessary skill match between employment opportunity and job applicants. A “yes” will allow further regional synergy between private and public institutions as they work to develop the global vision and status which is clearly a part of our future.

Please find answers to your questions at http://investsmart10.com/faqs/">investsmart10.com/faqs and then join us in voting yes to make this vision a reality.

Barbara and Fred Arnold are Madison residents and longtime education activists.

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