By Michael Berndt, Interim President of Dakota County Technical College & Inver Hills Community College

At Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College, the new school year has begun. As interim president, I am excited to see the many transformations that will happen for students throughout the academic year.

At DCTC and Inver Hills, we are committed to helping students realize the most from their education. Alumni Matthew Repke represents the manifestation of that mission well. Matthew, an Apple Valley resident, sought a college education at Inver Hills after working for 10 years post high school. He chose to study biology.

He now works as a field technician at Syngenta Stanton Research Station, here in Minnesota, exercising the technical and professional skills he learned at Inver Hills to work with corn as part of a global seed-care network. His work supports Syngenta's mission to reclaim land, enhance biodiversity and revitalize rural communities.

Matthew's story is reflected in so many others that seek an education at DCTC and Inver Hills. We regularly work with employers and other agencies to strengthen our communities. At DCTC, we partner with Ziegler Caterpillar to provide them diesel mechanics, who support the work of building roads, bridges, buildings and other infrastructure.

At DCTC, we also partner with Goodwill-Easter Seals of Minnesota, District 196 Adult Basic Education and UTC Aerospace to recruit and train historically underserved populations in soldering, brazing and electronics assembly. The plan is to train 90 students over next two years.

At Inver Hills, we just finished our seventh year of partnering with the city of St. Paul to recruit and prepare firefighters, paramedics and EMTs through the St. Paul Fire Department EMS Academy.

Partnerships with companies like Dakota Electric Association and Xcel Energy allow students at both Inver Hills and DCTC to receive scholarships while they study.

These partnerships make an impact that goes beyond the DCTC and Inver Hills campuses. According to a recent Minnesota State report, our two schools generated an economic impact in FY2017 of $334.6 million. That includes a direct impact of $171.8 million and indirect/induced impact of $162.7 million.

To increase our impact, we are working to engage in more partnerships with community leaders, area employers, colleges and universities, community service agencies, E-12 institutions, and nonprofit community organizations. Working together, we can help more people secure high-wage jobs and support their growth as citizens and human beings.

Our recent collaboration with the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority to provide a bus line to DCTC from Rosemount is a great example of what we can do together to increase students' access to post-secondary education and to meet the workforce needs of our community.

In the upcoming year, we will continue our focus at DCTC and Inver Hills on high-quality, experiential learning; robust support services; and an inclusive learning environment where all students can thrive. We invite opportunities to collaborate in supporting these goals and in building the communities we serve.