A continual process of evaluation and evolution

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Bob Dylan once sang, "The times, they are a changin'," and given our recent strange weather, I would agree. Abnormal weather aside, you can also see change at North Idaho College.

We are in a continual process of evaluation and evolution. Our academic and professional-technical programs are constantly undergoing adjustments to better meet the needs of our students and the ever-changing workplace.

NIC's professional-technical programs rank among the premier level offerings in the Northwest. Students can earn certificates, various types of professional credentials, and Associate of Applied Science degrees, depending on the program. It is our goal that when our students complete our programs they are ready to enter the workforce or transfer to earn their bachelor's degree, depending on their objectives. Those who choose professional-technical programs will find instructors who have real-world and private sector experience. That kind of experience is invaluable to our students and to the college. It keeps our programs current and helps to prepare our students to be "career ready."

At a time when many are wondering how to improve college completion, it is important to note that students in PTE programs have very high completion rates. They also have the highest job placement rates. Because of this, NIC's PTE programs are essential to growing our economy and supplying a qualified, trained and ready workforce for industry.

As we all know, funding for all post-secondary programs in Idaho has waned in recent years. Professional-technical programs are no different. Despite state funding reductions, however, we have worked diligently here at North Idaho College to supplement state funds in order to support these programs and assure high quality. For example, we made a major commitment and fiscal investment in the Idaho Peace Officer Standards Training Academy (POST), which is now fully available right here in Kootenai County. We worked with local law enforcement agencies to put together the absolute highest quality training and certification facility available. This enables peace officers, who need to certify through POST, to stay closer to home rather than travel to Meridian. This also saves local agencies precious taxpayer dollars.

Our Machine Technology program provides another illustration of NIC's support for PTE. Thanks to the efforts of the NIC Foundation in securing grant funds and private donations as well as the use of local resources, this program was able to obtain funding for a new and essential piece of milling equipment. This will give our machining students a much improved program, better training them to fit changing industry needs.

A third example is our Physical Therapist Assistant program. Input from the health sector was a major reason we now have this new program at NIC. We worked with state and federal leaders to find the money to start it and our community is the direct beneficiary.

We always say at NIC, we are "changing lives every day." Our PTE programs are a strong example of how we are indeed changing lives. We need your support in making them the best they can possibly be and in communicating the message to our legislators of the importance of funding PTE to assure that our economy not only gets moving but is also sustainable for the long haul.

The times they are a changing. Education changes lives. Education is our business and our goal is to change lives every day.

Priscilla Bell, Ph.D., is president of North Idaho College. For comments on this column, email her at PresidentsColumn@NIC.EDU.

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