Kirkwood receives federal grant for two-year degrees


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Students at Kirkwood Community College will soon reap the benefits of improved information-technology course work and job placement services.

Kirkwood is set to receive approximately $1 million in federal funding for their Information Technology programs.

“This funding will help us to better simulate the work environments that our graduates will encounter with new equipment and updated software for use in projects and hands-on lab exercises,” said Jim Glasgow, a Kirkwood assistant professor of computer information systems.

Funding originates from a grant awarded to a consortium of 15 Iowa community colleges under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program.

The program’s mission is providing eligible institutions of higher learning with the financial means to expand and improve their programs, which can be completed in two-years or fewer.

The Iowa consortium applied for $16.7 million and was awarded $15 million.

This is the fourth, and final, round of funding in the program, which has distributed $1.5 billion nationwide since fiscal 2011.

“This is the culmination of all the work done with previous grants,” said Linda Allen, the president of Hawkeye Community College.

Hawkeye Community is the Iowa consortium leader and is in charge of writing the grants. It will host representatives from the other 14 consortium members to complete the disbursement of the reduced funds, pending approval from the Labor Department.

One of the projects Kirkwood business and information technology coordinator Lisa Dutchik is most excited about is the “virtual help desk.”

All the details are yet to be solidified, but the premise is the opportunity to experience real-world situations with built-in evaluation.

Another emphasis of the funding is in Kirkwood’s attempt to implement what Dutchik calls a “pathway” model of education.

Students can complete parts of degrees or certifications in six months with the option to return for additional education as it becomes convenient.

Dutchik said the model is meant to encourage prospective students who might pass on a full two-year degree.

“Some of our students are new to college, but many are career changers, returning veterans or people whose traditional work is increasingly difficult to find,” Glasgow said. “They often need educational opportunities that are shorter and more focused, but just as effective as degrees from longer programs.”

Kirkwood also wants to use the funding to promote apprenticeship programs as a more common educational avenue in the IT field.

Apprenticeships are similar to a lengthy internship.

However, in an apprenticeship the employer, not only the employee, makes a commitment to training and eventual employment.

Dutchik said it’s a newer model and as such, has its complications.

She said Kirkwood’s continuing work to forge partnerships in the business community should eventually allow the program to succeed.

Allen said Hawkeye Community plans to revamp equipment and also increase its marketing to attract more students with the funding.

All the members of the consortium, including Kirkwood, agreed to use a portion of the funding to help create a specialized, statewide virtual database.

The searchable database offers users “the ability to find out where jobs are, what you need to be certified, and where to get that certification,” Allen said.

“Overall, IT in the nation, and in Iowa especially, really needs to build a pipeline of workers,” Dutchik said. “Jobs are plentiful and pay well.”

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