MARIETTA— Washington State Community College kicked off its InCERT Yourself pilot program on Friday. More than 60 area high school students along with several K12 and industry leaders gathered in the college’s student commons to launch the unique program that helps high school students earn industry-recognized credentials that will make them stand-out in the job market.
InCERT Yourself is a new program aimed at helping students, who may not have previously considered college as an option, earn a credential that will make them more employable after graduation. These students will come to campus one day a week to utilize WSCC’s state-of-the-art labs and equipment to get the hands-on experience and training necessary to earn in-demand industry certification and have the opportunity to network with local industry employers.
On Friday, over 60 high school juniors and seniors from 10 high schools including Belpre, Caldwell, Federal Hocking, Fort Frye, Marietta, Meadowbrook, Shenandoah, Trimble, and Warren schools started classes this week and for the next 15 weeks will take classes in one of three programs: cyber security, advanced manufacturing, or industrial welding and maintenance.
These three programs were selected because of the local employment opportunities available to students once they’ve earned a credential. In his opening remarks Friday morning, Dan Leffingwell, WSCC’s Dean of Business and Engineering and the guiding force behind InCERT Yourself, told students that all three pathways are aligned to STEM careers, which will represent 9 out of 10 jobs in the future.
“Those careers pay 68% higher wages. So, if you leave here with one, two, or more credentials, you’re ready for work. You’re ready for college. You’re going to be doing something that, right now, only 19% of people in this country are preparing themselves to do. Today, by being here, you’re making the decision to help create the best hope for your future because you’re going to be aligned with 90% of the future jobs that pay the highest wages.”
Leffingwell said the program provides a unique opportunity for the college to work collaboratively with industry partners and the region’s K12 school districts.
“We are working with our region’s school districts and our industry partners in a new way and the end result means jobs for our students. This program will allow them to learn about a career pathway and believe they can achieve their goals. Better still, they’re networking while they’re learning, which will open doors for them when they enter the workforce,” said Leffingwell.
Greg Buckley, Chief Information Officer at Magnum Magnetics and Manufacturing said he sees the program as a great way to build the workforce by bringing awareness to manufacturing. “The workforce is an upside-down pyramid with a lot of folks retiring, and trying to get more people in the pipeline is a problem across the country and in other countries, too. So, it’s important to get folks into the manufacturing world so we can keep making products in this country and then keeping that pipeline going.”
Trevor Tom, principal of Shenandoah High School, which has six students enrolled in InCERT Yourself, said the program gives his students greater opportunities. “We’re just giving them experiences that they couldn’t get on our school campus. This provides them even more opportunities to expand what they already have and better prepare them for their future.”
Leffingwell explained that while the program is in the pilot phase and, for now, students won’t earn college credit for the courses they complete; however, the college plans to eventually move in that direction. “The vision is to have the InCERT Yourself classes provide students with college credit and industry credentials. Our goal is that they’ll start their college path and then they have the opportunity to continue their degree here or continue into the job market. In the end, they will have succeeded at both, college and job preparation.”
The program is resonating with students as the initial enrollment surpassed college expectations. Currently, they have 61 students registered. Devan Carpenter from Frontier High School is taking industrial welding/industrial maintenance awareness classes. He said prior to enrolling, he never considered going to college but recognized how it could benefit him. “I decided to do this because it’s something that I’m good at and if I can get certified, it opens a lot more jobs for me.”
WSCC President Dr. Vicky Wood emphasized the optimism that will be created in students as a result of this program. “We want to help these students have hope for their careers and their futures,” said Wood. “Through this program, they’ll graduate high school with one or more industry certifications that verify they have skills that make them immediately employable.” She went on to add that “InCERT Yourself will allow students to see a career pathway and believe they can achieve their goals. We will show them that they can be successful in higher education and earn a college degree if that becomes their goal.”