Wyoming Colleges Ramp Up Online Efforts

Wyoming's strong network of seven community colleges and satellite campuses gives employers and workers a leg up on success in the classroom and through distance-learning initiatives.

By
Kevin Litwin
On Sunday, September 11, 2011 - 18:55

Wyoming’s strong network of seven community colleges and satellite campuses gives employers and workers a leg up on success in the classroom and through distance-learning initiatives.

Colleges Train Wyoming Workforce

By tapping workforce development programs and other services, businesses can ensure that their employees will have the skills they need to be competitive and enable them to contribute to Wyoming's economic development. And as the colleges follow economic trends in the state, they’re also preparing new material to meet emerging areas of demand.

“I think the community colleges are the foundation of workforce training in the state. We do everything from very basic adult education to issuing career-readiness certificates,” says Maryellen Tast, dean of the Center for Workforce and Professional Development at Laramie County Community College. Tast notes the college is developing programs in emerging industries such as wind-energy technology and in high-demand fields such as health care.

“We work with business and industry to see what their needs are, and then we also go into the primary and secondary schools to make sure we integrate into their curriculum the skills that these employers require,” Tast says. “That way we’ve got those pathways being developed earlier all the time. We want to make sure that we have career pathways ready for people  both hard and soft skills – so that everyone can become successful.”

Entrepreneurs, Small Business Class Options

Small businesses and entrepreneurs benefit from traditional classroom and virtual programs, says Dr. Kevin Drumm, president of the Northern Wyoming Community College District in Sheridan.

An Introduction to Entrepreneurism class launched in early 2009 generated high interest, Drumm says. “We have ongoing support for businesses that were just started prior to that class being offered, or started in conjunction with the class,” he says.

In its first months, the class saw three startups launch from among its students, and three that were already up and running grow to the next level of success. The coursework now consists of several online modules, which students can take as stand-alone classes or fold into other coursework related to obtaining a business degree that concentrates on entrepreneurship.

“It provides a new direction, another dimension of workforce training,” Drumm says. “These people are out there in the workforce; they just happen to be working for themselves. It’s a different aspect of economic development, but it helps keep more businesses here in the community and makes Sheridan a magnet for entrepreneurs.”

Classes and Training Are Convenient at Community Colleges

While all the colleges have similar goals, they offer very diverse classes and programs that reflect the needs of the communities they serve, says Dr. Jim Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission.

“We have major employers who need certain types of training,” Rose says. “But we are also continuing to develop the whole idea of long-distance education, so that someone in one part of the state can take a class elsewhere without having to go to that campus. That also is helping us tie into more businesses, so we can take care of the needs of the state as a whole.” The benefits are obvious: it's a win-win for students, businesses and Wyoming's economic development.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Litwin is the author of Crazy Lucky Dead and a freelance feature writer with a career spanning more than 20 years.