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Despite fast-track program, CCAC students find job hunt difficult

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By Margaret Harding
Monday, Nov. 8, 2010

About one-third of students who completed courses at the Community College of Allegheny County promising to fast-track them to new careers actually found jobs.

Forty-six students finished CCAC's first-ever accelerated courses in phlebotomy, child care, information technology, CADD certification and welding. Fifteen students found jobs. Thirteen opted to continue in school.

"I would like to see those numbers be higher," Donna Imhoff, president of CCAC's North and West Hills Center campuses, said of the students finding jobs. "We do have a significant number who are still seeking employment."

The courses, which last about six months and were first offered in the spring, are meant to provide training for jobs in high-demand fields. Costs vary, but most courses can be paid for using a tuition waiver CCAC offers to laid-off workers.

Fifty-nine students enrolled in the spring. More than 3 of 4 finished.

Thirteen of the 16 students who enrolled in the midnight welding program finished, and 11 have landed a job, according to CCAC. But only one is known to work as a welder, instructor George Klemencic said.

Drew Lise, 38, of Green Tree found full-time work welding at Scott Metals in Carnegie.

"I think the class was great," Lise said. "You can't get it all in the time you had there. ... But you get out of it what you put into it. If you're serious about it, you can get a lot out of it."

The courses are designed to teach the minimum amount necessary for a student to be employed in a particular field, Imhoff said.

"The whole idea was to give individuals an opportunity to retrain in areas where we know there are high-demand jobs," Imhoff said. "We do not have control over the rate of hiring or how much someone is looking."

Steve Salazar said he enjoyed the welding course, but it didn't help him get his job in quality assurance at Union Electric Steel Corp. in Carnegie.

"I feel as though it gave me a good basis to start on if it was something I wanted to continue to learn," said Salazar, 33 of Carrick. "But you're not going to take that class, walk out and expect to get a great welding job."

This fall, 28 students enrolled in the two fast-track programs CCAC offered — computer forensics and IT support certification, spokesman David Hoovler said. Kelly Collins, 37, of the South Side already plans to continue her education after she finishes the computer forensics program.

"There's a concern in finding a job in the field," Collins said. "It's almost like you have to go on afterward."

Of the nine students who completed the spring IT support certification course, eight still are unemployed.

Imhoff said it's not uncommon for job searches to take time, particularly in this job market.

"The idea is to get people good skills and a good background and get them started, with the hopes they'll continue to build on it," Imhoff said. "We can always improve, there's no question. But I think we are accomplishing that goal."

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