Walk into any class at the Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College and ask students why they are taking that particular class. The answers, according to Carol Swartz, campus director, are as varied as a multiple-choice test, with the correct response being “all of the above.”
“Many (of the answers) are related to getting a job or keeping a job or personal enrichment,” Swartz said. “Often it’s related to doing a current job better.”
Meeting the diverse needs of the southern Kenai Peninsula’s 14,000 residents is a driving force at KBC. About 500 credit and noncredit students enroll each semester. KBC offers two-year associate of arts and applied science degrees, courses leading to vocational and industrial certification, programs that lead to baccalaureate degrees and numerous four-year degree programs available through distance delivery. In addition, there are continuing education and professional development programs.
Student rosters for courses relating to geology and marine mammals offer a good example of students’ diverse needs. Enrollees include federal and state agency workers wanting to sharpen their skills as summertime visitor interpreters. Bed and breakfast owners also enroll so they can be prepared for inquiries from their out-of-state guests.
“We’ve had a lot of charter boat people take classes here not only on how to run a business, but on the biology of fish because they need to do their job,” Swartz said.
The need of employees to be aware of changes in their professions also shapes the list of class offerings at KBC.
“Over the years there have been lots of changes in how the medical world has to do billing and coding, so we’ve had people from the health clinics here to take a coding class,” Swartz said. “The same thing with teachers. We must have 30, 35 teachers in Homer taking classes this semester to stay current in their field.”
Providing a trained work force is an integral part of the college’s mission. Every year employers are surveyed to find out what their needs are, Swartz said.
“It is an ongoing assessment of employment training for the community that we do through a variety of ways. ... It’s part of our job to make sure we have our finger on the pulse for employers’ needs and for future employees,” she said.
Course development also happens when potential students express an interest in a potential course of study.
“Providing individuals with training and courses that create jobs, starting businesses, whatever that is how the university meets the needs of citizens of the state and community,” Swartz said. “We’re providing people with technical, professional and support skills which, in the long term, help provide an economic base for the community by having a skilled work force.”
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