Preparing Students for the WorkforceMeet Dr. John Wensveen

Profile photo of Dr. John Wensveen

Students are at the heart of Dr. John Wensveen’s work at Miami Dade College in his role as Vice Provost of Academic Schools. He oversees the direction of the College’s professional education programs and serves as the bridge between the College and industry, ensuring students are prepared to enter the workforce.

Dr. John Wensveen came to Miami Dade College last year, bringing extensive academic leadership to his role. He spent time as professor and head of aviation programs at Purdue University, Dowling College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He has also held a variety of industry leadership positions, giving him a keen sense of the connection between education and business.  Read more about the exciting career and academic initiatives he’s prioritized for Miami Dade College in this Q&A.

Tell us about your role and some of the priorities you’re working on in your office.
As Vice Provost of Academic Schools, I oversee the following: Global Business, Trade & Transportation; Education; Engineering, Technology & Design; Justice, Public Safety & Law Studies; Science. Additionally, I oversee the School of Continuing Education, Office of Workforce Education & Partnerships, and Office of Project Management & Implementation. The Vice Provost is an innovative leader that fosters relationships with the business community and is responsible for relationships pertaining to local, regional, national, and international boards and organizations and with leaders of foreign governments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations.

Everything I do as Vice Provost of Academic Schools is a priority because it ultimately impacts the student. I view my role as a bridge between Miami Dade College and industry and focus much of my time on establishing external partnerships with the goal of creating career tracks for our students whereby industry co-invests. It is very important to understand the trends, challenges, and opportunities impacting industry on a short, medium, and long-term basis so we can jointly create talent pipelines resulting in successful career placement for our students while filling the talent gap for our partners.

One of my large-scale projects, MDC WORKS, focuses on a next generation “career center” focused on Career and Technical Education (CTE). MDC WORKS will provide opportunities for students and industry to explore and collaborate on career tracks, internships, and apprenticeships as examples while providing access to resources that prepare MDC students to be the best of the best when it comes to employers seeking to recruit talent.

What sets MDC’s academic offerings apart from other state colleges/universities?
MDC is a very large organization with a unique model that allows for flexibility in terms of programming needs. MDC has the ability to adjust credit and non-credit program offerings based upon the needs of industry positioning itself at the forefront of opportunity. MDC’s multi-campus infrastructure creates an exciting environment for our students where they learn in practical, real-life, simulated environments taught by leaders in the field. Students have frequent access to industry leaders creating opportunities for networking and development of important relationships before graduating.

MDC provides a true “hands-on” experience for our students making them very attractive to industry because of the knowledge and skills gained. Industry does not have to fear retraining a graduate of our programs because they have confidence in MDC’s instructors and curriculum. Students should not have any fear of seeking employment because they are sought after. The MDC name is highly regarded throughout the world and all students should feel proud to be part of the MDC family.

Talk about the extent that MDC helps prepare Miami’s workforce. How are MDC’s programs responding to the needs of the economy?
In addition to the great things MDC already does responding to the needs of the economy, we are launching a new model called, MDC-TIES (Miami Dade College-Targeted Industries Ecosystem). MDC-TIES develops talent pipelines serving the needs of industry with a focus on short, medium, and long-term timelines. Miami-Dade County’s economic development organization, The Beacon Council, spearheads the “One Community One Goal” strategy focused on seven target industries: Aviation, Banking & Finance, Creative Design, Hospitality & Tourism, Information Technology, Life Sciences & Healthcare, and Trade & Logistics. Enterprise Florida, the principal economic development organization for Florida, is focused on nine Qualified Targeted Industries:  Aviation & Aerospace, Life Sciences, Manufacturing, Defense & Homeland Security, Information Technology, Financial & Professional Services, Logistics & Distribution, Cleantech, and Headquarters. Each industry listed is considered a long-term growth area and the need to create and supply skilled talent is vital to the success of industry growth. MDC is working with industry to identify talent needs which will result in pathways of opportunity for MDC students seeking job placement within the identified targeted industries.

As an example of MDC’s commitment to supporting job growth in the targeted industries, we are creating a new apprenticeship model, in partnership with industry in Miami-Dade County, resulting in formation of an apprenticeship consortium. Initially, apprenticeship pathways will focus on careers in transportation, trade, and logistics supporting industry needs around the Port of Miami and will diversify to serve the needs of other targeted industries. This is a major milestone in establishing MDC as a talent hub to support our community.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve come to learn about MDC since you began serving in your role last year?
I was very excited to join MDC as I had heard many great things around the institution over the years. I heard MDC employees were passionate about students but I did not realize how much until I became an employee. Some academic institutions talk about passion but MDC lives it. Every day, I learn about the impact of MDC on our community and people’s lives. It is difficult to walk down the street and not run into someone who has been touched by MDC. As our president, Dr. Eduardo Padrón says, “Talent is universal, opportunity is not.” MDC provides more opportunities for the citizens of our community than any other organization. I am humbled and honored to have such an important role and am very thankful to be part of MDC.

What can we expect to see looking forward?
The future is already here and MDC is preparing itself to be “the” talent hub for Miami-Dade County, Florida, and the nation. Technology innovations outpace human’s adaptability causing disruption and we must ask the question, “What is the future of people?”. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), cybersecurity, and 3-D printing are all examples of technology that will have a major impact on the way people live and work. The way in which students are educated is in a period of transformation and MDC seeks to be a leader that promotes and fuels innovation equipping our graduates with the skills and qualifications needed to be successful in the future.