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Greenfield Community College

GCC initiatives steer students toward jobs

College incorporates career skills into academic programs

GREENFIELD — A set of January workshops on career skills will be the first in a series of initiatives Greenfield Community College will roll out in 2013 to help its students become employees at local companies.

The free workshops — offered by the college’s federally funded Workforce Development Transformation program — will teach approximately 40 students the best practices for writing resumes and cover letters, as well as strategies for job interviews, said Andrew Baker, the program’s director.

The workshops will help students who may not otherwise have time to fit a career-planning class into their regular course load, said Baker. He hopes they will also expose students to the skills before the time when they will actually need them.

“The time to begin developing these skills is ... early in your academic planning, at a time when you can still make choices about your courses and your major,” he said.

Academic and career adviser Nessim Watson said GCC faculty members will teach the workshops. They will combine presentations and actual hands-on practice in a computer lab.

Registration for the workshops is closed, but Watson said that the college will likely roll out the series again in the near future.

And he’s encouraging other faculty members to attend the January workshops, to think about ways to incorporate career skills into their academic programs.

“Ideally (a career readiness program) becomes a part of the college someday on its own,” said Watson.

Expanding academic programs

The college’s Workforce Development Transformation program — funded by a three-year $785,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor — began 15 months ago with the goal of strengthening the relationships between the county’s students, regional career center and local employers.

GCC used grant money in fall 2011 to help pay for a new math lab and clean energy instruction center. It then hired three employees this past spring: Watson, Baker and career navigator Sarah Wing.

The staff has focused on preparing students to join the local workforce, specifically in the fields of renewable energy and health care — areas that they said have the most job potential in Franklin County.

Wing, at her base at the Franklin Hampshire Career Center, will continue to connect local unemployed workers with specific GCC training programs.

And at the college, Watson is working to fine-tune those programs — helping faculty to integrate career skills into their courses.

For instance, a one-credit course that explored renewable energy/energy efficiency career possibilities has been expanded to a three-credit course for this coming semester.

The course will create a “five-year plan for yourself, in terms of who you are and where you’re going,” said Watson.

It will teach the career skills covered in the January workshops, but will also expose students to specific jobs in the “green” energy profession. Students will learn which job databases to use and how to plan their academic schedule to prepare for certain energy certifications.

“The industry is changing right now,” said Watson. “We’re keeping on track with it.”

Upgrading technology

Grant money is also being used to pay for technology upgrades, said Baker.

A “mobile lab” of 20 laptops will be in use this spring to help GCC expand its accelerated developmental education program, he said.

The goal of that program, according to Baker, is to help students accelerate quickly to a college-ready academic level. In the past, some students had to spend time and money on a developmental English course just so they would be ready to then take an introductory college-level course.

But now, GCC offers a computer-based course that combines those two courses into a single class, he said. The mobile lab will allow more students to take the class each semester.

Among the other initiatives planned for the grant this year is an upgrade to the humanities department’s digital media lab, said Baker.

“They currently have very old computers with very old software on it and they’re wanting to teach students state-of-the-art Web design,” he said.

Baker said the upgrade will likely be completed in time for the fall 2013 semester.

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