09/24/08 — Wayne Community College looking for vocational/technical education boost

View Archive

Wayne Community College looking for vocational/technical education boost

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 24, 2008 1:46 PM

Fall enrollment numbers at Wayne Community College might only be up slightly, but recruitment of high school students is in full swing, officials said Tuesday.

Dr. Kay Albertson, president, told the board of trustees that WCC is honoring its commitment to the county commissioners to push toward a "well-heeled work force."

"We're working so closely with the public schools now to focus on the technical, vocational end," she said.

With additional academies being incorporated into area high schools -- engineering, health and teaching among them -- students are being encouraged to take more community college classes and utilize the college campus, Dr. Albertson said.

"We actually are trying to connect them with business and industry," she said. "It's a hard job. We just have to persevere."

For several years, the president said, Wayne Community has had a "pretty flat" enrollment. With one more eight-week enrollment period to go, the fall enrollment is already up by 1 percent.

That's not a lot, she said, noting it represents an additional 146 students. Part of the slowdown can be attributed to some closures in the area, particularly the federal prison and fluctuations at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base since 2001.

"So for us to pretty much maintain a steady enrollment is excellent," she said.

For the first time, the college had a full class of 88 enrolled in the associate degree nursing program, due in part to additional scholarships being made available.

Several other areas are also seeing shifts in numbers.

On the rise is information systems/computer technology. Information systems security, for example, has 15 students, compared with seven from fall 2007. Simulation and game development, introduced two years ago, has risen from 13 in 2007 to 24 currently.

At the same time, Dr. Albertson said, some areas where there is "high demand, low enrollment" include mechnical engineering technology, which dropped to 19 students from 27 last year, and automotive systems technology, down to 17 from 28 the previous year.

Board member Dr. Michael Gooden asked if there are identifiable reasons students aren't attracted to some of the vocational programs.

"The kids don't see the excitement and the parents really have a difficult time," Dr. Albertson replied.

Some of the vocational fields, she said, simply "aren't sexy" enough to attract students.

"The second thing is their parents really aren't pushing it," she added. "You talk to the parents that say, 'I do not want my child doing what I did for 30 years. ...

"But today a student who comes out with a two-year degree starts out with a $45,000-50,000 salary. The job is easier and they have got a ways to go."

Overcoming such barriers is challenging, but not impossible, she said.

"One of the things we have started to do is earmark scholarships for these areas, programs that we know are high demand out there. "We're going to continue that voyage and hopefully we will be able to give you good news about getting more numbers for these programs."

While community colleges might have started out as vocational and technical training grounds, these days the fastest-growing areas with the largest number of students are in college transfer courses, Dr. Albertson said.

That does not mean Wayne Community has lost its original focus.

"If we train students here for the first two years, they're still going to go to the workforce," she said. "They're going to go into some fields. We still are moving forward with that very important preparation for the work force."