Community College of Vermont’s new Flex classes allow students to enroll at multiple points throughout the semester, and to then work through course material at their own pace. In addition to greater flexibility, these courses give students more ways to advance their careers by earning valuable credentials. The development and promotion of Flex courses has been made possible by initial support from the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation, and now through a generous grant from the Northfield Savings Bank Foundation.
Below, meet two students from two different industries who’ve used Flex classes to expand skills, earn a promotion and move forward.
An opportunity to grow
Lissy Barnes-Flint has traveled the world with her work as a freelance stage manager. When COVID hit, all of her jobs were cancelled.
She says she was “in shut-down mode and looking for something to work on, some way to feel like I’m still making forward progress.” She decided to take advantage of the free classes offered at the Vermont State Colleges through a $2.3 million allocation of state COVID relief funds. One was a Flex course, Effective Leadership and Management.
“Usually in my career I don’t have time for things like that,” she said. “I saw it as an opportunity to grow.”
As a stage manager, “So much of my job is leading a team and communicating with a diverse group of people. So much of my job was trial by fire, so it was nice to take this class and learn the applied theories.”
The Flex format worked for Lissy.
“I enjoyed that it was at my own pace…it was nice to see the whole syllabus laid out and I could fit it into a schedule that worked for me,” she said.
Lissy earned three digital badges through her Flex course, which can be bundled together to lead to a digital credential. CCV is currently offering four digital credentials, which help make students’ learning and skills visible to employers: Human Resource Specialist, Digital Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and 21st Century Skills. Digital credentials can serve as the foundation for many of CCV’s certificate and degree programs.
Lissy will use what she learned in Effective Leadership and Management to continue her development as a stage manager.
“I applied skills [from the course] in the sense of recognizing that I can grow those skills in my day to day life. It made me realize more why who I am as a person fits with what I do — it made me learn more about myself and what type of leader I am and what type of team member I am.”
From new job to new promotion
Steve DeSimone started a new job as a packaging operator at Perrigo Nutritionals in Georgia last March. Soon after, he found out that he could take two grant-funded CCV classes.
“I was pleased that Perrigo was able to provide me a way to continue my education, and without having to take money from my own pocket to do it. When I saw the normal price tag I thought that it would be stupid not to take advantage of the opportunity,” he shared.
Both were Flex classes, which he says were ideal for his family and work situation.
“It perfectly fit my life because of the Flex format. I have two children … Having two kids under the age of four and a full-time job for me and my spouse, makes attending classes very difficult,” he said.
The courses were sponsored by a grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission, which CCV received in 2016 in partnership with the Franklin-Grand Isle Workforce Investment Board. The goal of the grant is to increase participation in manufacturing by offering entry-level and advanced training for anyone who lives or works in Franklin County. Steve says the need to develop the manufacturing workforce became obvious to him soon after moving to Vermont a few years ago, when he worked as an industrial recruiter prior to his job at Perrigo.
“As a recruiter I had my finger pretty firmly on the pulse of who and what jobs were available. Manufacturing jobs in Vermont are hiring! They need people and are willing to hire hard workers with little to no prior experience,” he said.
Together, Steve’s CCV classes led to the nationally recognized Certified Production Technician (CPT) manufacturing credential. Less than a year after starting out at Perrigo, the credential helped him earn a promotion that came with a significant raise.
“I am now a team lead. The job interview couldn’t have come at a better time. My certification for the CPT course arrived two days prior,” he said.