WNCC will offer new certificate program at Douglas campus
Members of the Western Nevada community College Academic Advisory Committee have invited the county commission to hear of their achievements at a meeting next week.
Committee Chair Vicki Hafen-Scott said the group’s biggest accomplishment is the development of 15-credit “certificates of completion.” The creation of the nine new programs came from a survey of 60 Douglas employers.
“What the survey told us almost unanimously,” Hafen-Scott said, “is we need to concentrate on job and employability skills.”
The survey was taken last summer, and the certificate programs will be offered this fall at the new Douglas campus – named Bently Hall in honor of Don Bently, who donated the land for the campus at Bently Science Park.
At a February commission meeting, Hafen-Scott briefly spoke about the committee’s accomplishments for the past year and invited commissioners to its quarterly meeting March 19 at Two Guys from Italy restaurant in Gardnerville.
Commission members have shown considerable interest in supporting the campus, Hafen-Scott added. Fund-raising continues for the college building, a project which started over three years ago.
The certificate of completion, she said, makes it less daunting for a student to take classes and obtain new job skills while working at the same time.
“The idea is to get a job fairly soon,” she said.
Right now, a student going to WNCC can earn a “certificate of achievement” by taking a minimum of 30 credits. Among these credits are a few general requirements, such as English and math, plus specific skills training.
Normally, 30 credits can be obtained in two years if a student attends full-time. But most part-time students can take up to 10 years to complete such a program.
“We feel that this will encourage more people to go to the community college to get a 15-unit certificate of completion, whereas a 30-unit certificate of achievement may be a little daunting,” Hafen-Scott said.
“We’re also talking about an awful lot of people who attend community college who also need to work. [Now] they can get a 15-unit certificate part-time in a couple of years where a 30-unit certificate can seem to take forever.”
Hafen-Scott said the advantage of the new certificate for employers is that they now can hire someone who has the specific training they need.
After students have gotten a job with their new certificate, it is hoped that they will have developed the confidence to go on and finish the rest of the 30 credits to earn a certificate of achievement.
They could even go on and earn a four-year degree.
The certificate program was developed by a subcommittee of the advisory group whose members worked closely with Bus Scharmann, dean of the WNCC Douglas campus.
“We created nine of these certificate of completion programs,” Scharmann said. “They are entry level, and mostly in the business areas, such as applied accounting technology, business/management, word processing/computer application, computer information systems, office administration, electronics technology, plus early childhood education.”
The courses are already offered at WNCC and are described in the college catalog.
“We offer so many classes now,” Scharmann said, “so what we are doing is grouping them together so people can receive some sort of acknowledgement for a certain field of study. I look at it as a way to market our classes more efficiently.”
The courses needed for the new certificates of completion may be all taken in Douglas County. A few may be offered at Douglas High School, where some classes will still be offered at night. The college has been offering classes at DHS and other locations in the county for over 20 years.
Members of the curriculum subcommittee that developed the certificate programs are Penny Nicely, Barbara Byington and Hafen-Scott.
Advisory committee members also include Kathy Hone, Andy Aldax, Bob Centanni, Pendery Clark, Michael Gibbons, Monica Hilgarth, Beverle Jeans, Judy Keele, John Laxague, Linda Reid, Sherry Smokey and Bruce VanCleemput.
Hafen-Scott said the committee found that employers also were interested in flexible class hours, such as offering courses on a weekend, or on two or three days a week for a few weeks instead of the traditional semester schedule.
The committee has worked closely with the Douglas County School District’s director of occupational education, Dennis Guido, to coordinate programs where possible. Advisory committee member Sherry Smokey spent many hours gathering information on the school district’s occupation program, Hafen-Scott said.
“We have coordinated a great deal with the high school,” she said. “We feel that has been a major accomplishment. We’re not reinventing something that the high school is doing, and we want them to be aware of what we’re doing.”
There are a number of dual programs where students at the high school can earn credit for college through WNCC. Many of these classes are offered through interactive video.
“Last fall we had 12 kids in the interactive program,” Scharmann said. “This spring, 96 are involved in the interactive video.”
Scharmann and members of the Douglas County Task Force which is raising money for the new building will be at the county commission meeting March 20, hoping for some help with funding.
The WNCC Foundation has a loan to pay for the construction of the new facility, but will have to pay it off in five years.About $150,000 still needs to be raised.
Hafen-Scott is enthusiastic about making the commission aware of the committee’s work at the Wednesday meeting.
“What I really want to show to the commission,” Hafen-Scott said, “is that the college is working very hard and the advisory committee is working hard to try to focus more of the curriculum, and that the college is going to meet the needs of the community. They [WNCC officials] have been very receptive in taking suggestions and going forward and doing something.”
She sees the new certificate programs as meeting the employment requirements in the county.
“These can help provide a skilled employment pool – what this community desperately needs.”