Student demand is exceeding nursing class offerings at Central Lakes College as displaced Potlatch Corp. workers seek to return to school.
It is a Catch-22 of sorts. Former Potlatch workers are on waiting lists for nursing programs. The state has a severe nursing shortage.
But limited funds are creating a challenge to adding nursing classes. Those obstacles met with a communication breakdown in mid-May as Potlatch workers heard many college classes were full. College officials spoke during a community strategy meeting last week assuring Potlatch transition team members that many courses were open.
Workers who called or stopped by CLC were referred to the WorkForce Center in the beginning. Now those calls are being handled at the college.
Becky Best, Central Lakes College dean of external studies, said there are barriers in availability, but those barriers are limited. Best said the good news is that a vast majority of classes are available. Nursing courses have been a sore spot, Best said, noting the huge demand and limited classes.
The licensed practical nursing program is closed with 60 students registered and 27 on the qualified waiting list. The registered nursing program is closed with 40 students registered and nine on the qualified waiting list. Twenty-three students are expected to register in June for the occupational skills course with two on the qualified waiting list.
Calls to other schools within driving distance found a few openings in Bemidji. The nursing entrance test assesses reading rates, social decision-making, ability to deal with stressful situations, learning styles, test-taking skills and math skills. Cost is $25. Study guides are available at an additional cost of $35.
Nursing entrance test exams, specifically for Potlatch, are 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. June 6, 13, 20 and 27. Potlatch employees must identify themselves when calling CLC in order to get information about the testing or sign up.
Best said CLC determined the best way to assist would be to help people determine if they were eligible for the courses by offering the nursing entrance test. The nursing test is not typically offered in the summer. But Wendy Schluender, CLC dean of student affairs, said there was concern that offering the test would be a signal more nursing class sections are available when they are not. Best said the college is exploring avenues for funding, but the next question is teaching staff.
"I can tell you around the state this is an issue," Best said.
For some dislocated Potlatch workers, including those who planned to go back to school, the nursing course complexities are just one concern.
Dwight Hinch, a nine-year Potlatch employee, had early concerns about college course availability. Today Hinch said fellow workers were interested in carpentry and electrician courses. But he said there are 40 people on the waiting list for an electronics course in Wadena and nothing available closer. Hinch, Brainerd, is starting a golf course management class next week.
"They are doing a pretty good job about it right now," Hinch said of CLC's efforts. "At first there were a few slowdowns but it hasn't been bad."
Communication issues, including those between CLC and Potlatch workers, also have the group considering reestablishing its employee management committee, which was folded as Potlatch closed.
A summer class designed to assist workers who may not have been in a college setting or those who have been out of school for a number of years is available. The fast track program provides an initial exposure to the typical college schedule with brush-ups in math, reading or computer skills and a basic skills assessment. Dislocated worker program dollars and other funds are providing financial assistance for tuition and child care while classes are in session. Shorter intensive training sessions are also in consideration -- such as those for computer training. There are also options for people who want to pursue a master's degree.
Open programs outnumber those in danger of being full. Other CLC Programs reaching 80 percent capacity include:
* Communication art and design, Staples.
* Heavy equipment, Staples.
* Marine and small engine, Brainerd.
* Automotive technology, Brainerd.
* Dental assisting, Brainerd.
* Welding, Brainerd.
* Photographic imaging, Staples.
The community strategy team is continuing efforts to organize a community services/job fair with information on entrepreneurial opportunities and college courses, tentatively scheduled for July 23 at CLC.
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