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Greenfield Community College

Qualified applicants

GCC business certificates aim to give students access to better jobs while working their way through school

Greenfield Community College professor Kathleen Vranos discusses the stacking of certificates for students in the business school with professor Thom Simmons Dec. 19. They are co-chairs of Business & Information Technology. 
Recorder/Beth Reynolds

Greenfield Community College professor Kathleen Vranos discusses the stacking of certificates for students in the business school with professor Thom Simmons Dec. 19. They are co-chairs of Business & Information Technology. Recorder/Beth Reynolds

GREENFIELD — As classes resume this semester at Greenfield Community College, about 90 business students will continue working toward new certificates that will allow them to qualify for better jobs while they’re still in school.

Introduced last fall, the business and information technology certificates are unique because they allow students to earn a certificate while simultaneously working toward an associate’s degree. There’s no extra cost for students because the certificate essentially acts as the first half of the degree program.

For instance, a first-year student who earns his computer-aided bookkeeping certificate this spring could then still finish his business administration associate’s degree in spring 2015. But meanwhile, as soon as he earns the certificate this spring, that same student can use his new credential to earn a job in the community.

“The average student here at GCC goes to school part-time and works and works and works ... anywhere from 30 to 50 hours a week,” said Kathleen Vranos, who runs the department with Thom Simmons.

One goal of the certificate program, said Vranos, is to try to get students better paying jobs faster so they can work less and concentrate on school more. Vranos and Simmons surveyed businesses and organizations all over the Pioneer Valley to find out the specific credentials they were looking for in potential employees.

“I think students are going to discover that ... good quality work experience is going to enable them to write better essays, to interview better, to make smarter choices about what they want to do,” said Vranos. “The life decisions are going to be better as a result of better jobs along the way.”

The college, including the business department, has offered certificates in the past. But Vranos and Simmons wanted these certificates to complement, rather than compete against, the associate degree programs. All eight certificates stack neatly into the department’s four-semester degrees.

Out of about 300 students in the college’s business program, about 90 are pursuing both certificates and degrees and between 20 and 30 are enrolled only in certificates. Most of the classes are available in person and online, said Vranos.

The most popular program, which makes up about half of all of the certificate students, is the management certificate. Other certificates include retail management, web development and design, network administration, hospitality and tourism, computer-assisted bookkeeping, entrepreneurship and real estate.

A new certificate program, for medical coding and electronic health records will premiere in the fall, and will be a four-semester program.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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