Kirkwood Community College (KCC) serves students and employers with fourteen locations across seven counties in Eastern Iowa. KCC offers over 130 degrees and programs with 18,000 enrolled learners.
While long supporting skilled trade apprentice training, KCC’s Continuing Education and Corporate Training Department jumped into developing and holding the standards for apprenticeship programs in partnership with five industry partners in 2019. Its first program, Construction Technologist, began with six apprentices. The Construction Technologist Apprenticeship Program was designed to advance the learner along a career and educational pathway from inception. Upon completing the apprenticeship, only two additional courses are necessary to earn an Architecture, Construction, and Engineering Diploma.
KCC also developed a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Apprenticeship Program with a front load of didactic instruction. This program offers additional certificate education options such as senior care that are responsive to employer partner needs. The Diesel Mechanic Apprenticeship Program includes all for-credit instruction, earning the apprentice an AAS degree upon completion. KCC’s Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program is another that awards a diploma after completion of the two-year program. Additional programs in planning phases include welding, advanced manufacturing, and surgical technologist.
Amy Lasack, Executive Director of Continuing Education and Training Services, says employer engagement from day one has been key to KCC’s success. Another critical component of KCC’s apprenticeship programs is mentorship. Ms. Lasack says program standards require employers to provide a mentor. All mentors must complete training that provides mentors’ knowledge and skills to support the apprentice in the classroom and on the job. Each mentor gains an understanding of credit and educational pathway options open to the apprentice. Costs for mentor training are included in apprenticeship fees.
Today, KCC’s apprenticeship programs partner with over thirty-five employers. Apprenticeship programs have strengthened existing and cultivated new relationships with business and industry. Apprenticeship programs have resulted in revenue growth and spurred interest in more traditional educational programs offered at KCC. For apprentices and traditional learners, this means meaningful connections with employers. Employer partners have been satisfied too. Several employer partners within the CNA program reported being fully staffed for the first time in a very long time.
AACC’s ECCA program provided a spark for KCC’s apprenticeship programs. KCC used ECCA funding to help offset employer costs during the programs’ first year and mitigate barriers for learners, including technology and internet access.