Homeland Security/Emergency Management training courses to be offered at SMC
The Oct. 4 Santa Monica College Board of Trustees meeting addressed updates on facilities and projects while introducing new programs such as the Homeland Security/Emergency Management Program at SMC. The Department of Homeland Security and Santa Monica College are in contract negotiations to establish the “TSA Associates Program,” a program to train transportation security officers.
Less than nine percent of Transportation Security Agency employees have completed college-level course work.
Recognizing this lack of education, TSA is working nationally with community colleges to develop courses in Homeland Security for their more than 2,700 transportation security officers.
After a competitive process among local community colleges, SMC was selected to participate in the program that will be led by a team of administrative staff and Albert Vasquez, safety chief of police at SMC.
The program was designed by DHS, and will allow TSA employees at LAX to enroll in three associate-level courses that SMC will be contracted to provide.
“At the conclusion of the three courses, the TSA employees are given a certificate from TSA and encouraged to complete their associate degree,” said Vasquez.
Although the program will provide contract education for TSA employees only, 35 SMC students were hired part-time by TSA last year in connection with this program.
They were paid $15.55 per hour as a starting wage with full benefits.
Retired Judge David Finkel, a member of the Board of Trustees, asked at the recent BOT meeting how the program will be funded.
“It will be funded by Homeland Security under a contract education model,” said Vasquez.
When asked how this program will benefit SMC, Vasquez said, “A successful TSA Associates program at LAX will give Santa Monica College the opportunity to develop a relationship with DHS and the federal government. LAX is the largest employer of TSA agents in the country, and could help Santa Monica College in developing an academic discipline in Homeland Security and Emergency Management.”
Although the majority of trustees gave positive feedback in regards to the project, Vice Chair Trustee Margaret Quinoñes-Perez said she would prefer to see “training from the law enforcement,” rather than a sheriff’s department that polices the college.
“For me, there’s a big difference,” said Quinoñes-Perez asserting that college police who deal primarily with college-related issues may be less apt to train TSA agents.
There is no start date for the program as of yet because the contracts have not been finalized, and the curriculum for this new certificate program is currently under development.
“We are in the process of viewing the contract,” said Vasquez. “Vice President Rodriguez will handle the negotiation issues of the contract in the near future.”
Teresita Rodriguez, vice president of the enrollment department at SMC, will be working through the contract details which will be presented to the BOT at a later date.