Last month, I visited Lone Star College North Harris (LSC-North Harris) and spoke with Erica Jordan, Executive Director of Career and Technical Education about the skilled trades training programs at LSC and about the Construction and Skilled Trades Technology Center which is currently being constructed on that campus.
In her office on the Lone Star College-Tomball campus, Jordan advises students and works with representatives from the industry to advise them of potential hires which are coming out of the LSC programs and what particular skill sets each of them have.
Jordan works with a variety of programs offered by Lone Star College, including their Allied Health programs, Construction Trade programs, ATCP (Alternative Teacher Certification Program), and FastTrack non-credit programs. FastTrack programs provide industry training which result in certificates rather than academic credit. These programs are designed for quick entry into the workforce without the need for core classes, and are usually completed in six to eight weeks, allowing students to return to the workforce as quickly as possible. Jordan told me that students usually enter the FastTrack programs because they are looking to learn a skilled trade in a short amount of time which will qualify them to find employment. She said that these students “don’t have time to waste. Many have a family to provide for so time is critically important.”
I asked Jordan to talk a little more about the FastTrack components, which are considered “stackable,” meaning that some students may choose to use their FastTrack certificate(s) as prior learning assessment toward an AAS (Associate of Applied Science) degree, which is a two-year degree plan designed for students who want to pursue training specifically geared for entering the workforce as quickly as possible. Jordan said:
“When students complete our FastTrack programs, they have the opportunity to obtain employment and continue their education as well. … So not only do they have a certificate from FastTrack, but they can work and also attain additional education credits.”
I asked Jordan what she found most fulfilling about her job. She said that she enjoyed “providing opportunities for students to make a change within their households.” She said many of them were single parents or were the main providers for their families. She loves the idea that “they are able to get a skill and go back into the workforce in a timely manner.” Some of the students return to her after they have a new job and share with her what the training at Lone Star has meant to them. Students have said to her:
- “Now my child is able to go to day care,”
- “I am actually able to provide for and be a role model for my children and for my family,” and
- “My family knows that this can be done where before there were barriers and obstacles that were stopping me, but those can be overcome.”
Jordan added: “To hear those success stories – that is why we are here.”
I asked what the new Construction and Skilled Trades Technology Center would mean for her work. She said, “The new center will provide a wealth of opportunity in hands-on training for our students. We will be able to run our NCCER courses in pipefitting, ironworking, welding, and HVAC-R.” Jordan explained that the new building will provide the space needed to offer more hands-on training than LSC is currently able to provide for students. As I learned from talking to Michael Burns and Brian Sanders earlier, the training at Lone Star College is taught to groups of “cohorts” who move through the program working and studying together. Jordan said that the new center will give Lone Star the opportunity to bring in even more students to complete the programs, because they will be able to add more groups of cohorts, by having the extra space needed to train them.
In the 4-minute video below, Jordan concludes her remarks by saying: “We are excited about the new building. We are excited to bring in students to visit and explore opportunities in careers in our new building.”