July 10, 2018

Until about a year ago, the Continuing Education and Customized Training (CECT) department was one of Century College’s best-kept secrets, according to Health Careers Program Manager Lynnette Wies, “No one really knew what we did,” said Wies, “but the rest of the campus is starting to realize that we’re a really big part of the College.”

CECT offers incumbent workers and job-seekers skills training, certificates, and professional development through non-credit courses, without requiring them to spend the time and money that a two or four-year degree entails. By keeping pace with industry trends and the latest technology, CECT helps students meet constantly evolving employer demands.

“CECT is a forward-thinking, innovative division that is on the cutting edge of technology,” said Academic Dean Dr. Monica Ramirez.

A Makerspace workshop conducted in Century College’s Fab Lab represents one example of CECT’s commitment to innovation. This was a course for educators and individuals looking to set up a high-tech workspace for schools or community centers, focusing on the implementation of tools such as Laser Cutters and 3-D printers.

Bridging the Skills Gap

Though CECT may still be a secret to some, it’s certainly no secret that Minnesota has a significant workforce skills gap. While there are plenty of jobs being created, a number of industries simply aren’t finding enough skilled workers to fill them.

The gap is particularly significant for middle-skill jobs, which require education beyond high school, but not a four-year degree. In 2015, middle-skill jobs accounted for 50 percent of Minnesota’s labor market, but only 45 percent of state workers are trained to middle-skill level (1).

“There’s definitely a skills gap, but how you bridge that is really a challenge,” said Wies. “With the baby-boomers not yet peaking, it’s going to become even bigger.”

CECT takes this challenge head on by creating new opportunities in middle-skill markets, many of which are unique to Century College.

This includes a partnership with the Minneapolis Fire Department that provides students with firefighter training that is fully funded by the City of Minneapolis, and one of the only Prison Certification programs among two-year colleges in Minnesota.

“The depth and breadth of our offerings make us stand out,” said Business, Computers, and Law Enforcement Program Manager Sharon Mason. “We have so many programs among so many different areas that other places don’t have.”

Recent Developments

A key way that CECT addresses the Minnesota skills gap is through flexibility. This is especially true when it comes to CECT’s manufacturing training program.

While many schools have great manufacturing programs, workers have to attend classes at the school’s facilities, which isn’t necessarily the most convenient for students. Furthermore, the training is often not customized to the specific needs of employers and students.

For optimal flexibility, Manufacturing Program Manager Larry Raddatz has developed a portable training apparatus that can be brought directly to employer sites. By forming partnerships with local businesses, including Reell Precision Manufacturing and International Paper, Raddatz is able to provide on-site training that is not only convenient, but adaptable to each business.

This is just one example of how CECT is working to customize training on a case-by-case basis.

“Sometimes you have students who don’t necessarily need the credits – they may just need the skills,” said Mason. “If we can teach them only what they need to know, we can get them out the door and actually doing what they want to do faster.”

Doing Good in the Community

One key way CECT, and Century College, stands out is through the quality of teaching that instructors provide to their students.

“When people come to Century College for classes, they’re treated with respect and appreciation,” said Raddatz. “We have really good people that have a great reputation within the community. The instructors are very helpful.”

A big reason that CECT has such a great reputation is that they truly care about making a difference in people’s lives. Nowhere is this more evident than CECT’s work with community-based organizations. In collaboration with workforce centers, CECT helps unemployed or underemployed individuals prepare for new careers and reduce their reliance on public assistance.

Some community-based organizations that CECT is partnered with include Community Action Partnership and the Karen Organization of Minnesota, which provides employment, resettlement, and social services to Karen and Burmese refugees from Myanmar.

For Raddatz, working with community-based organizations represents one of the most rewarding parts of his job.

“It’s incredible seeing students have the confidence and skills to go get a good job, where they’re going to make enough money to support themselves and their families,” said Raddatz.