local economy

Data Matters: Serving the Local Economy

By Rebecca L. Weber

From auctioneering to casino gaming machine repair — community colleges offer programs and certificates to create a strong workforce.

Community colleges share a mission: to serve their local populations. These programs — some of which may seem a little unusual to regions without these kinds of industries — are examples of how the skills needed can go beyond typical areas of study.


Lassen Community College, in Susanville, California
Associate degree:
Firearms Repair and General Gunsmithing
Certificate: Gunsmith Machinist
Program started: 1945
Graduates in spring 2015: 15
Fun fact: Students build all of their own tools, using raw materials such as bar stock steel. Students learn to fit, rather than replace, parts.

Santa Fe Community College, in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Biofuels program
Career opportunities:
Plant/Lab Tech, Process Coordinator, Project Engineer/Developer, Sustainability Coordinator
Certificate program began: 2010
Students completed: 200+
Fun fact: Santa Fe is a hotbed for sustainability research and industry. Students geek out over keeping living systems, like algae, alive for weeks at a time.

Johnson County Community College, in Overland Park, Kansas
Interior Staging
Revamped curriculum began: 2015
Fun fact: Home stagers-to-be work on floor plans, selecting furniture, colors and finishes to help sell residential property more quickly.

Erie Community College, in Buffalo, New York
Casino Gaming Machine Repair Technician
Program began: 2015
Students per year: 12–14
Fun fact: Many grads leave to work in Las Vegas or on cruise ships.

Harrisburg Area Community College, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Business, Hospitality, Tour Auctioneering
Fun fact: Students who want to become freelance auctioneers learn how to develop an auction chant, assess and acquire merchandise, and manage administrative paperwork.

Florida Keys Community College, in Key West, Florida
Associate degree:
Diving Business and Technology
Certificates: Dive Instructor and Research Diving
Fun fact: A controlled lagoon environment and a living coral reef are not typical classrooms. Students of diving and underwater technology follow pathways to become a scuba instructor, a commercial diver or an underwater photojournalist.

Rebecca L. Weber

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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