In an effort to meet continuing workforce shortages in the state, Delaware Technical and Community College will expand their certificate and diploma offerings. With registration for spring classes beginning, Del Tech is hoping that those who want to train for a new career or advance in their current career will take advantage of some of the shorter programs that can help them achieve that goal.
“We are really excited about all the offerings we have under workforce development,” Justina Sapna, Vice President for Academic Affairs, said. “People are already familiar with our associate and diploma programs. An associate program is a two-year commitment which is why we now offer shorter certificate programs that appeal to a wide range of people. We offer allied health, heavy equipment operator, construction, just a whole range of programs designed to help address shortages in the workforce throughout the state.”
In December, Del Tech historically sends catalogs that are specific to each area. For instance, people in Kent County receive a catalog with classes offered at the Terry or Wilmington campus while Sussex residents receive a catalog with classes offered at Owens Campus. Because many classes are now offered in an online format, Del Tech will send just one catalog that will provide information on classes offered statewide. The catalog will include personal interest subjects such as languages like Spanish or Italian as well as information on their Kids Kamps, which will be available online this spring.
“We have been talking about student offerings such as Wi-Fi hotspots and online programs for a while,” Christine Gillan, Vice-President for Strategic Communication and Marketing, said. “Now, COVID-19 has forced our hand. We began to ask why someone who lived in New Castle take a class offered in Sussex since it was available online.”
Sapna explained that the most popular programs offered at Del Tech are based in healthcare. These include Certified Nursing Assistant, dialysis, pharmacy techs and others as that industry continues to grow in Sussex County. Although there are currently not many healthcare offerings at Terry Campus, that will change over the next few years as the college is expanding programs and renovating a building on the Terry Campus that will be dedicated to healthcare.
“We also have quite a few students enrolled in construction and our new diesel mechanic program,” Gillan said. “These are industries that are also growing in Sussex County and there is a need for well-trained individuals to step into those trades.”
Anyone who is considering an associate, diploma or certificate program at Del Tech should call to speak with a counselor. Because much of the learning and administration at Del Tech is virtual right now, individuals who are ready to expand their knowledge simply need to visit the website to connect with a counselor who will review their education goals and talk about areas where the student may need help.
“If we have someone who struggles with math, we can help them find tutoring services,” Sapna said. “Our counselors can talk through any insecurities and provide guidance for how to overcome them. Sometimes, it just takes jumping in an taking that first step. If there is something you have a passion for, it is easier to overcome those insecurities and begin the journey. We want nothing more than to see our students succeed.”
Often, people don’t take the steps to further their education because they don’t believe they can afford to do so. Sapna pointed out that there is financial aid available for associate programs and, although they require some paperwork and processes, the college offers assistance in filing for aid as well as guiding students throughout their educational program.
“Although federal financial aid is not available for the workforce development programs, there are different ways to obtain funding,” Sapna said. “Some of those are through the state. An individual who is on unemployment could talk to the Department of Labor and could be eligible for a voucher that would help cover the cost of the program. There are qualifications that must be met. We also have internal scholarships that are offered through grant funding.”
Sapna explained that programs are developed through partnerships across the state who tell them what workforce needs are limited. Workforce development programs are easier to create as they don’t have compliance pieces that associate degree programs must meet. When a business partner mentions they need employees with certain skills, the workforce development directors review what is needed to provide that training and can either assign current staff or hire new staff to teach. In some cases, a program can be set up in a matter of months.
“On the associate side, we invest some time in labor market data because we need to know, especially on the instructional side, that the time, effort and resources involved in building a program at the associate level will qualify for financial aid and federal recognition,” Sapna said. “We want to be sure people will get jobs when they finish the program. We are driven a lot there by contractual needs, so someone may just come in and say I need 100 people prepared in this area and then it can be taken back down when we don’t need it anymore.”
Sapna pointed out that this is a great time to take advantage of the resources offered by Del Tech, even though children are learning at home and finances may be difficult. Anyone who has been laid off or whose company has closed due to the virus could take advantage of the free time as well as possible assistance from the Department of Labor to expand current skills or learn the skills necessary to move into a new, more lucrative career.
“We also offer assistance to anyone who may be technology-challenged,” Sapna said. “We have many great programs that were not available before COVID-19, like Wi-Fi hotspots and other options that may be difficult for some families to provide initially.”
Catalogs should be arriving in mailboxes very soon, both Sapna and Gillan stated. The catalog will contain information about courses offered in the spring as well as the steps necessary to register. Interested individuals can also visit the registration website at https://dtcc.edu/academics/registration-information and visit the Virtual Support Center. They can also call 302-259-7145.