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Residents seek to begin the new normal with a new career

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A lot of Northern Nevada residents appear to want to learn the skills that will enable them to pursue new careers once something approaching normal life resumes after the COVID-19 pandemic.

But adults’ desire to learn something new is bumping into the challenges that face all educational institutions — worries about COVID infections spreading in classrooms and teaching that has shifted online, then back again.

Even so, interest remains strong at public institutions such as Truckee Meadows Community College as well as private trade schools.

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Dr. Karin Hilgersom, TMCC President.

“We are continuing to see robust enrollment in all programs for the fall and strong interest in programs that align with those industries identified by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development as pandemic-resilient or ‘emerging’ industries – allied health (nursing, dental, medical assisting, technicians), advanced manufacturing, logistics and information technology,” says Dr. Karin Hilgersom, president of TMCC.

After hearing from northern Nevada employers about their needs, TMCC this autumn is launching a new information-technology program to train developers of mobile apps as well as full-stack software developers.

IT skills are a big draw, too, at New Horizons Learning Group, which operates learning centers in Reno and 10 other locations around the West.

Cindy Sutherland, vice president for career development at New Horizons, says courses that teach skills for help-desk staffers as well as networking and security specialists have drawn students interested in new careers.

At the same time, she notes that many mid-career students have been using the pandemic’s disruptions to learn specific software skills — say, Microsoft Publisher — that allow them to move their careers forward.

Kevin Landry, president of the New Horizons group, says another strong area has been classes in leadership and development, the sorts of soft skills that IT professionals may be lacking as they rise into management positions.

Training programs in construction and maintenance trades have seen recent strength at Career College of Northern Nevada, says Nate Clark, the president and chief executive officer of the institution in Sparks.

“We are seeing a definite increase in interest, but a lot of that interest is offset by people who are afraid to go to classroom-based instruction,” Clark says.

At TMCC, Hilgersom says nearly 70% of classes will be offered online this autumn. About 30% have a lab component that will be conducted in-person.

That’s requiring faculty members who will be teaching in new ways to learn new skills themselves in workshops and through one-on-one tutoring.

“Each economic downturn has its own unique characteristics and this one is no different,” the TMCC president says.

Enrollment at Career College of Northern Nevada ticked up as the school moved mostly to an online teaching model during the summer.  But some students put their training on pause and decided to wait for a COVID vaccine when the college returned to classrooms.

On the other hand, Clark says current students are intently focused on completion of their education.

“We are seeing a phenomenal increase in retention as a higher percentage of students are graduating now compared to just a few years ago,” he says.

John Seelmeyer
John Seelmeyer
John Seelmeyer is a business writer and editor in Reno. In his 40-year career, he has edited publications in Nevada, Colorado and California and written several thousand published articles about business and finance.

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