PETOSKEY — While most college degrees come with prerequisites unrelated to your field, North Central Michigan College is beginning to offer certifications that will not require taking unnecessary courses.
Open to students and non-students alike, North Central has introduced 10 new “fast track” programs, offering streamlined introductions to the skills needed in different career tracks, each course ending with a certification, instead of credits.
“They’re not your typical NCMC students,” said Christy Lyons, the college’s director of corporate and community education. “Anybody could apply for it. So, it could be someone that’s in their 40s and it’s just for a new career — it could be somebody in their 20s that hasn’t figured out what they want to do, and this is a nice quick way to get into the workforce.”
The offered programs are in career paths with many opportunities — and with a current demand for employees.
The new offerings were announced this summer after the college’s first foray into a fast track program proved to be a success. The 20-week Fast Track Healthcare bundle program launched in May, and saw enrollment at capacity, with 22 students enrolled.
There are now fast track options in manufacturing, health care and business. Soon, two skilled trade courses will be offered. Lyons said she anticipates the skilled trade options will be available by October or November.
The new programs include:
- Electronic Health Records Specialist
- Medical Assistant
- Patient Care Technician
- Pharmacy Technician
- Phlebotomy Technician
- Automotive Repair Technician
- HVAC Technician
- Intro to Mechatronics
- CNC Operator
- Bookkeeping With Quickbooks
As of now, the college is planning to offer these training opportunities twice a year, but those numbers can change based on demand. There may be limits to how many people can enroll in the course at a time as well, depending on how demanding the course load is and how much hands-on work there is.
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A bulk of the training and coursework is done virtually, allowing the college to offer opportunities for a larger regional area throughout the state. Stephen Strom, North Central’s vice president of academic affairs, said the goal is to allow more people to have access to the trainings.
“I mean, realistically, a student could be anywhere in the state or country,” Strom said. “What we’re really trying to do is extend our reach into other parts of this region — to capture students who might not have an opportunity for this type of training. They’re able to do the training online, which creates greater accessibility.”
As of now, students in the fast track programs will still be required to come to campus for skill assessments, but the school can work with students individually to find externships closer to where people are based when taking the courses.
“If we have a student from somewhere in the eastern U.P., instead of having them do an externship here in the Petoskey area, we would work to find a medical office or clinic in the eastern U.P. that will be willing to serve as the externship site,” Strom said. “Those opportunities seem to be readily available to do that.”
The courses are helpful because the training is faster than a typical academic year’s schedule would allow, Strom said. While the fast track programs offered are not for credit, the school is working to set up programs that will allow students to receive credits with proof of different certifications.
“If we have a credit course that kind of parallels the training on these fast track programs, we’re working really hard to see — if a student gains a state certification — that we can take that state certification, for example, and bring it back into the college and provide the credit for the course that would have led to the same certifications,” Strom said.
According to prices listed on North Central’s website, participating in one of the programs costs anywhere between $1,700 – $3,500. However, the college is helping provide grants to anyone interested in taking these programs. The first 22-person cohort of students in the medical assistant program all had their tuitions paid for through various grants, Lyons said.
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Strom said the college works with state agencies who then work directly with students to receive those grant opportunities.
“It’s a great opportunity to get some really quality training for low or no cost,” Strom said.
For more information on the fast track program, visit ncmich.edu/fast-track.