Courier News: RVCC partners with local employers, high schools to build a better workforce
Joananne Coffaro, Raritan Valley Community College
Published 8:00 a.m. ET March 15, 2019
Editor's note: The Branchburg-based Raritan Valley Community College is marking its 50th anniversary this year. An ongoing monthly series of stories will highlight different aspects of the College and its role in the life of the Central Jersey community.
Through partnerships with local employers and high schools, Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) is helping to build a better workforce in Somerset and Hunterdon counties.
By developing industry-driven instruction and innovative programs that bridge the gap between high school and employment, RVCC is contributing to the economic vitality of the region.
Continuing collaboration with industry partners is essential to the success of RVCC’s Workforce Division in identifying training gaps in middle-level skill occupations and developing programs based on real-time employment data. This ensures that graduates have the requisite skills, knowledge and abilities to be employed. In addition, advisory boards featuring small, medium and large industry employers review the curriculum, speak with students, and most importantly, provide employment opportunities. To date, 160 graduates of RVCC’s Advanced Manufacturing program have been hired by employer partners. The College’s Workforce Training Center, which opened in spring 2017, provides state-of-the-art training facilities and flexible workspaces that can be configured to meet a variety of training needs. Both employers and students are reaping the benefits of the new facility and its focus on collaborative, innovative instruction.
“As a small manufacturing company with limited resources, we have struggled with training our employees on the fundamentals of the trade, in addition to recruiting talent,” said Elissa Santo, vice president of Atlantic Precision Technology in North Brunswick. “RVCC’s Advanced Manufacturing program has allowed us to both tap into a pipeline of enthusiastic, educated employees, as well as provide our existing employees with much-needed skills. It has changed the landscape of our company and provided us with the foundation for growth."
Kevin Dunn graduated from RVCC’s Advanced Manufacturing program in November and has been hired by Triad Tool Company in Somerville. “All day at work I rely upon all that I’ve learned at RVCC, and it’s given me an excellent foundation for moving forward— especially instructor Pete Tribulski’s CNC material. His problem-solving, totally immersed, totally focused, dedicated, non-relenting approach to teaching the material, picking apart the programs and codes, and running the machines has been invaluable and has instilled me with confidence."
Through apprenticeships and partnerships with high schools and employers, RVCC also offers educational training opportunities for students interested in entering the workforce soon after graduating from high school. In January, RVCC became the first community college in New Jersey to offer a manufacturing registered apprenticeship program.
Approved by the US Department of Labor, the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) Certified Machinist Apprenticeship program is a competency-based program that aligns with the College’s NIMS-related technical instruction curriculum. Apprenticeships are structured training programs that allow students to work and go to school at the same time. This hands-on training allows students to put their skills into practice and gain confidence in a working environment.
The apprenticeship program is just one example of the college’s efforts to bridge the gap between a high school education and the workforce. RVCC’s Workforce Training Division has developed relationships with area high schools that help build awareness and provide a pipeline of students. The College’s Advanced Manufacturing and Cosmetology programs partner with the Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School to give students access to RVCC programs. A Cosmetology Completer Program was recently developed that will enable Somerset County Vocational Somerset County Vocational & Technical Schools' (SCVTHS) students to fulfill the necessary hours for the New Jersey State Cosmetology license exam and enter into a practicum training experience.
“Partnering with SCVTHS is a great opportunity to promote student success by providing a transfer enrollment model that aligns with the College’s Beauty programs,” said Marcia Bird, director of beauty programs at RVCC. “These students will be able to complete their training and participate in a salon practicum while they’re pursuing their licensure."
The College’s Advanced Manufacturing program works with both Manville High School and SCVTHS to provide students with training and career pathways. Beginning in ninth grade, students receive hands-on manufacturing training for two hours a day at RVCC’s Workforce Training Center. After completing all program requirements, students receive 12 stackable credentials through NIMS. Students are then able to go directly into the workforce or continue their education at RVCC.
Workforce programs are highly responsive to regional workforce needs and serve as a vital pathway to work, continued education, and a better life. Many programs serve as a starting point for individuals to acquire the skills they need to enter their field of choice, or for incumbent workers to gain the necessary tools to advance in their careers. The college’s role is to provide educational programs and short-term training courses that enable individuals to have a prosperous and rewarding career.
"After a great week of work at Triad, I’m reminded again of how none of it would have been possible without the Advanced Manufacturing program at RVCC, and how extremely fortunate I was to have enrolled in it," said Dunn.