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Nevada’s Community Colleges: Your Career Pipeline for the 21st Century

August 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Highlights

Frank Woodbeck


As we enjoy the rebirth of industry and growth of commerce across the state, we all look to participate in and benefit from our “new Nevada.”

Citizens from every corner of this state, without regard to their socioeconomic status, can look to the community colleges to provide post-secondary education leading to an immediate career, an associate’s degree in a particular discipline or a springboard to one of our four-year institutions. Nevada’s System of Higher Education (NSHE) and our colleges and universities stand ready to respond to the call for development of the workforce needed to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Encompassing four community colleges, a state college, two universities and an environmental research institute, NSHE forms a series of collaborative and integrated pathways to careers. In this essay, we will focus on our community college system.

The community college system in Nevada represents a gateway for underrepresented students of color, low-income, and first-generation students to an education that will pave the way to careers that will serve them and their families for a lifetime. Of the population of students attending NSHE institutions, more than 50% are attending a community college. Our colleges will provide career guidance, with one-on-one counseling; we’ll guide you through the financial aid process; and help you form the study habits that will result in your success. We care!

Nevada’s four public community colleges serve a diverse population across our state. Serving Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson, the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) is NSHE’s largest institution with more than 36,500 students each semester. Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) serves more than 11,500 students each semester in the Reno area. Based in Carson City, Western Nevada College (WNC) serves more than 4,000 students each semester in Carson City, Fallon, Minden/Gardnerville and rural communities; and Great Basin College (GBC), with its main campus in Elko, educates more than 3,100 students each semester across rural Nevada in a service area larger than the state of Indiana.

These community colleges provide critical and challenging academic programs to match student needs with those of Nevada’s business leaders, so you’ll find pathways to employment success within our college environment. To form these pathways, and create successful programs to serve you, we have applied for and received several grants from the Department of Labor that have augmented our funding of programs serving industry growth segments in Nevada. A recent example is the $9.9 million grant (out of a maximum of $10 million) the Nevada Community College Consortium (comprised of CSN, GBC, TMCC and WNC) was awarded by Trade Adjustment Assistance for Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. This grant enhances our community colleges’ efforts to:

•Build a joint system of credit for prior learning across NSHE that will not only honor and leverage the experience of active-duty military, veterans, and older students re-entering higher education, but also help make dramatic improvement in their ability to earn higher wages.

•Align training needs and increase capacity across five focus areas (Health Care, Business Administration, Information Technology, Diesel Technology, and Machining) to meet employer-driven demand in each unique and diverse region of the state.

•Build upon and leverage the processes and procedures in place as a result of the previous TAACCCT grants.

This grant will allow our community colleges to invest in the Burning Glass data system. This cutting-edge data system will provide numerous advancements in our ability to determine the regional and national skill set demands of today’s employment opportunities. We will use that information to improve our curriculum development, so that our faculty can maintain the accuracy of student instruction to better serve our students. There are also other unique features that will aid our students — including job market demand in key Nevada communities and nationwide for occupations, skills, degrees or employers, along with tools for identifying typical skill profiles, qualifications and career pathways needed for placement.

NSHE’s four community colleges will also use grant funds to expand Veterans Resource Centers on the campuses, as well as increase the use of ACT WorkKeys testing to provide National Career Readiness Certificates to successful completers.

The Nevada System of Higher Education is a collaborative organization designed to serve the near- and long-term needs of our citizens. The four community colleges within NSHE are designed to serve as the springboard for career opportunities and service to industry. Our colleges and universities are here to serve you.

Frank Woodbeck is the Executive Director of the Nevada College Collaborative.

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