Riverland to offer credits to adults in technology program

Published 12:42 pm Saturday, October 16, 2010

By Trey Mewes

staff writer

There’s an opportunity brewing for people who are out of work or looking to get back into school.

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Riverland Community College is partnering with the Austin and Albert Lea Adult Basic Education programs, as well as Workforce Development Inc., to offer a program equivalent to five Riverland credits in their Production Technology program.

Fifteen people will be chosen to take three Riverland courses free of charge, with additional courses in college preparation and extra study help available.

The courses, which include technical math, introduction to computers, safety and OSHA, along with a college-prep class, are free for participants.

These courses are part of the college’s Production Technology I program and can fit into many manufacturing programs offered through Riverland. According to school officials, the courses are designed for people who want to pursue manufacturing jobs. In recent years studies done by Workforce Development have shown manufacturing to be a growing job area in southeast Minnesota.

There’s no prerequisites to apply for the program, according to Peggy Young, one of Riverland’s training and development coordinators.

“This is available to those who traditionally have not done well in a college setting or may not have tested high enough to get into Riverland,” Young said. “Basically, what they need is a real strong will to be successful to be in college.”

The manufacturing-focused program was created by grant money from the FastTRAC program, a joint initiative among the state Department of Education, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The coalition received $109,000 in grant money from FastTRAC earlier this summer, in very quick time.

This project is one of about a dozen around the state geared toward getting more people to succeed in their post-secondary education goals, in effect getting struggling people the training they need to gain available jobs.

“The purpose of this grant is to target the unemployed or the underskilled,” said Amy Baskin, Austin Public School’s director of Community Education.

It’s so new, the kinks are still being worked out. The courses will start in early November and continue through April, being offered in the afternoon three days a week. The location of the classes hasn’t been determined yet, as school officials don’t know how many people from either the Albert Lea or the Austin area will sign up for the program. The first course offered will act as a transition to college courses, teaching people good study skills and showing them things like filling out the FAFSA.

“It’s a class to help people get ready and set to be successful in college,” said Janice Mino, an ABE coordinator. “And they can hit the ground running once they can become a registered student.”

Subsequent courses, like the math and computer classes, will be jointly taught by a Riverland instructor as well as an Adult Basic Education teacher who can step in to explain difficult concepts and provide additional study help.

“There are always going to be those students who have the skills (necessary to do well), but the basic everyday reading and math skills just don’t click,” Young said.

Those who wish to participate in the FastTRAC program can sign up by contacting Stacy Edland of the Minnesota Workforce Center at 507-433-0555 or sedland@wfdi.ws.