Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
ST. ALBANS — On a recent Tuesday night, classrooms of 10 or 15 adults pored over medical textbooks, practiced giving injections to a clementine, took each others’ pulse, and set up for a blood draw in the back of a classroom.
It was just another evening at Northwest Technical Center (NWTC), where career development programs are taking off. Under new leadership through Lisa Derochers – a former business teacher and marketing professional for a Fortune 500 company – since July, the NWTC adult education program has transformed, and has been renamed.
“The vision for the Career Development Center is to be a community based learning center,” Derochers said in a Dec. 16 interview. Professional development for educators, corporate trainings and continuing education, she added, are all needs the center looks to serve.
The overall goal of the Career Development Center, said Derochers, is to strengthen the community workforce. In cooperation with the Franklin-Grand Isle Workforce Investment Board, the Career Development Center looks for where more skilled workers are needed in Franklin and Grand Isle counties and then aims to offer courses with the right certifications and training to create those skilled workers.
“We take a look at the current labor market,” said Derochers. Health science, as well as information technology (IT) and transportation, for example, have all been growing sectors in Franklin County in need of more workers.
“I’m always adding [courses],” said Derochers. A certification course for pharmacy technicians will be offered in spring 2015, and it will be the only one of two courses offered at technology centers statewide. Certified Drivers License (CDL) courses for class B and C will also be newly offered, looking to help fulfill the need for more shuttle and bus drivers in the area.
“This is really big,” said Derochers.
Currently, the courses for the Career Development Center are made so tuition payments cover the costs of the class. “I need to ensure that the courses come at a break-even point,” said Derochers.
With U.S. Department of Labor and Franklin-Grand Isle United Way grants of over $20,000 each, Derochers gives out scholarships to students who can’t fully fund their own courses.
In the vein of making education accessible, online courses for those who can’t make it into St. Albans once or twice a week are also now available through a third party service called ed2go.
“They offer a lot,” said Derochers, indicating that thousands of courses are available. “It’s just another way to reach out to our community.”
As for those community members who use the Career Development Center, Derocher said typical students are professionals or adults, though high school students can also take career development courses. About 300 enrolled in July, and many are in the midst of or are just finishing up classes.
In those Tuesday night classes – Clinical Medical Assistant Training Program and Phlebotomy I (blood drawing) – students talked about the usefulness of the Career Development Center offerings.
“I’m trying to better my career,” said Phlebotomy I student Sarah Carson, a 39-year-old LNA from Alburgh.
Becky Tipper, a 43-year-old Sheldon resident and Clinical Medical Assistant Training Program student, said she’s looking to do more with her career. “I’ve actually been working in healthcare since I graduated high school,” she said, “but always behind a desk.”
For Tipper and other older students, night classes are the easiest to fit in on top of a job, family and other responsibilities.
“You can juggle,” said Paula Villemaire, a 43-year-old Fletcher resident, Clinical Medical Assistant Training Program student and Copley Hospital risk management employee.
According to teacher and University of Vermont Medical Center employee Lynn Goodrich, adult classes offer so much to all those who attend.
“Because we’re diverse, it’s really nice because we all come from different areas and we can share our wealth of knowledge with everyone,” she said.
In addition to current offerings at the Career Development Center, Derochers has bigger plans for the future and wants to create a community learning center at NWTC that offers basic classes like Spanish, American Sign Language, crisis intervention, and others. She also wants to open up NWTC meeting spaces and other services for more community events.
“We can leverage local resources and again go back to learning together,” said Derochers.
With everything Derochers is looking to try and do at NWTC, she said that she’s had a lot of encouragement since she arrived in the summer.
“The supervisory union had been very open, [and] the local businesses, the local community has really been supportive of what we’re trying to do here,” she said.