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HCC job studies tie in with Bush plan

February 02, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Community College already is working with area employers to develop job training similar to that which President Bush called for in his State of the Union address, HCC President Guy Altieri said last week.

Alteri said community colleges, a highly adaptable but often-overlooked element of higher education, gained a big supporter when Bush identified them as a key to the nation's economic prosperity in his State of the Union address last month and in follow-up speeches.

Bush has said he wants to provide more money to community colleges so they can train workers for the industries that are creating the most new jobs. The grants would go to schools that team up with employers looking for skilled workers.

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HCC has been working for years with area employers to develop curriculums that are current, and match local and industry needs, Altieri said.

"We are not just a junior college anymore," he said.

The college has been working with the Homewood Retirement Center and other employers in the nursing industry to determine needs and trends, Altieri and other HCC officials said.

The college then offers specific courses and career programs tailored to meet those needs, they said.

As a result, more than 70 percent of nurses and X-ray technicians in the area took courses at HCC, Altieri said.

HCC has always collaborated with area employers. However, in recent years the college has expanded the number of programs tailored to particular industries, said Diane Weaver, career programs and grant specialist for the college.

The college has started offering a practical nursing certificate, which would provide Homewood and similar companies with needed, skilled employees, she said.

Homewood even took the unusual step of agreeing to pay, for three years, the salary of an instructor to teach the practical nursing certificate program, Weaver said.

Career programs, in which students receive certificates and letters of recognition instead of an associate's degree, can usually be completed in less than one year.

The college also works with companies to make sure its graduates are getting the skills the company would want its future employees to have, Weaver said.

HBP Inc. of Hagerstown worked with the college to ensure students seeking HCC's graphic design technology certificate are learning the most up-to-date programs, said Lori Jenkins, company art director. Some students in graphic design programs at other schools learn software programs that are no longer commonly used in the industry, she said.

The idea of the college reaching out to companies to make sure its programs meet industry needs makes a lot of sense, Jenkins said.

"They came to us and I thought that was a great idea," she said. "They took advice from people who are in the right trenches."

In July 2003, the college started the Job Training Institute, which seeks to help people with some type of disadvantage, such as being "unemployed or underemployed or a single parent," Institute Coordinator Lisa Mowen said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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