Fast-track program at college grows

Chris Martin of Grand Junction wanted to fine-tune his welding skills and further his education. So when he saw an ad for a program that could help him do that in 16 weeks, he decided to give it a try.

Martin, 38, is one of 15 students enrolled in one of Western Colorado Community College’s six fast track certificate programs. The programs, introduced last fall, allow a student to finish a certificate to become an electronics technician, basic welder, CAD/CAM operator, certified network technician, computer technician, or control systems technician in one semester instead of the standard nine months.

The program was created thanks to a four-year, $2.5 million grant awarded to the community college in September 2012 by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. The grant helped WCCC pay teachers, order new machinery and materials and fine-tune programming so fast track students can take some, but not all, of the same classes as regular certificate and associate degree students. The school made sure to lump the most pertinent classes in a program into each 16-week stint so fast track students would learn enough to “at least get you in the door” with an employer, according to Brigitte Sundermann, vice president of community college affairs at WCCC.

Already, the first graduating class of seven members has three students employed in their chosen fields and four continuing their education to earn an associate degree. The current class has two students who work in welding, including Martin. He said the program helped him perform better at his job, taught him resume-writing skills, and inspired him to potentially pursue more education.

“I have some past welding experience and I figured by doing the program it would sharpen up my skill. I’m a lot more confident now,” Martin said.

The grant was awarded on the premise that the new programs would help military veterans, their families, and people who had their jobs outsourced overseas gain new or expanded job skills in a limited period of time so they could get to work faster. However, the programs are open to all potential students, including those, like Martin, who are not veterans and have not lost a job to outsourcing. 

All six certification areas are accepting applicants now for summer and fall classes. Call 255-2670 for more information.


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