College to launch expedited tech programs for vets

A $2.5 million grant will help Western Colorado Community College roll out six new fast-track programs aimed at veterans and people who have lost their jobs to outsourcing.

The condensed programs will offer students a certificate to become a basic welder, computer technician, certified network technician, control systems technician, electronics technician or CAD/CAM operator. Each program will last 16 weeks.

The programs are available to anyone, but the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration grant used by the college and the Mesa County Workforce Center is awarded specifically to help guide veterans and people who have had their jobs shipped overseas in finding employment. Local veterans organizations, employers, and the workforce center worked with WCCC to determine which skills are needed to fill jobs in Mesa County and nearby areas.

The programs will remain even after the four-year grant ends in September 2016.

The first year of the grant has already helped the community college purchase equipment, hire a grant coordinator and recruiters, and will pay part-time faculty wages and fund training for faculty on how to use the new, high-tech equipment.

Brigitte Sundermann, head of Western Colorado Community College, said the grant was a perfect opportunity for the community college to gain new equipment while meeting demand from locals who want to know how they can expedite the time between enrollment and workforce readiness. Sundermann said the school already has some veterans and displaced workers in nine-month and two-year programs, but the 16-week option will help serve up to 40 more students this fall.

“It’s what the community has been asking for,” Sundermann said. “This just gives them another on-ramp into their education.”

Mesa County Workforce Center Business Services Manager Suzie Miller said the center provided employment projections and data about training opportunities on the Western Slope during the program planning process.

The community college decided on six manufacturing and technology fields, she said, because of local demand now and years down the road in those areas.

While jobs are available, Miller said she often hears from companies seeking machinists, welders and information technology specialists that there are not enough skilled professionals in this area to meet demands.

Miller said the skills in the program are well-suited to many with a military background or job history in manufacturing, or information technology positions that are often subject to outsourcing.

“We looked at opportunities that have a wage that’s going to make sense and not just offer minimum wage,” Miller said.

The programs will begin Aug. 19. Tuition and fees range from $3,843 to $4,324 per program in addition to the cost of books and supplies. Tuition grants are available through the workforce center for some students, as well as federal need-based financial aid.

WCCC will host four open house sessions for interested students at Building B on the community college campus at 2508 Blichmann Ave. The sessions will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, from 10 a.m. to noon July 27, from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 7, and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 14. Class sessions will be offered in fall, spring and summer sessions.

Jobs are not guaranteed for all graduates. But some employers who worked on the program-forming process are interested in hiring people at the end of the 16-week sessions. Lee Garza, territory manager for Cameron, said he has hired welders from WCCC in the past and hopes to hire more from the fast-track program.

“We were having a problem with retention and getting good, quality employees in the shop,” before seeking WCCC graduates, Garza said. “The reliability, the quality and the knowledge of students from that program has been spot-on. We’re looking at hiring four to eight people from the 16-week program.”

Call 255-2670 for more information about the new programs.

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