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Iowa Central continues to expand its academic options

Seven new programs are being added this fall to meet workforce demand in the region

Iowa Central Community College continues to look for the most efficient and effective ways to get its students workforce ready.

This fall, the school will offer seven new academic programs to help that mission become even more of a reality.

Degree opportunities in computer networking technology, dental assisting, diagnostic medical sonography, information and cybersecurity, plumbing, veterinary technician/assistant and cosmetology will be added to the list of career options for the upcoming fall semester, pushing the total number of programs offered to 68.

“Iowa Central takes great pride in serving our nine-county region and assisting in meeting their workforce needs,” said ICCC President Dr. Jesse Ulrich. “All of these programs are high-need and in-demand jobs for our region. This will allow Iowa Central to offer more programs of interest for our students, as well as meeting the needs of our workforce.”

Stacy Mentzer, vice president of instruction at Iowa Central, said the school constantly monitors real-world demand in the region and beyond when determining its degree opportunities.

“Iowa Central uses several sources of reliable information to determine moving forward with a new program,” Mentzer said. “One of the sources is current workforce data that we have access to. This data reveals current and predicted workforce shortages.

“We also listen to our students and (find out) what programs they are interested in,” she added. “Regarding our new veterinary tech program, for instance, we had numerous students who came to Iowa Central for a different program and expressed interest in veterinary tech. Once we could verify the need for this program in our area, we launched the program.”

Iowa Central’s ongoing partnerships with area businesses and industries also helps gauge both interest and demand in the respective fields, Mentzer added.

“Another resource we use is our team in the business and community department,” Mentzer said. “They are in direct contact with a variety of industries, and they share what their business needs are.

“Ultimately, each program we develop is based on current and relevant needs of our area. Launching these particular programs also made sense from the standpoint of current resources. We are able to offer them in part because of space available on campus, and the ability to hire instructors in a timely manner.”

For some, Iowa Central serves as the first stop on a student’s journey in post-secondary education. For others, it is a vehicle to shorten the path between school and a career choice.

“Students that complete one of our CTE programs — hands-on programs such as electrical, HVAC, diesel technology, automotive and more — are able to get into the workforce in a short amount of time,” Mentzer said. “We serve hundreds of students whose desire is to start earning money in the shortest amount of time possible.

“Our CTE programs get the students the skills they need to get into a good paying job quickly. It’s a win-win for the student and our local workforce, which makes those programs so important. Another bonus is that these particular programs are a very affordable pathway to starting a career.”

Each new degree addition serves its own respective purpose. Programs like medical sonography and dental assisting complement Iowa Central’s existing radiologic technology and dental hygiene programs. Diagnostic medical sonography affords students the opportunity to expand their skills in the radiologic field.

“Area hospitals came to us and said there is such a shortage of ultrasound technicians. That is a very needed position in the medical field,” Mentzer said. “This program will allow our students to complete an additional two years in the program, earn more certifications, and become more in demand in their career field.”

Dental assisting prepares students in a 10-month program, again in an effort to address the demands of the region.

“We have had several local dentists telling us they really need more dental assistants,” said Dr. Mentzer.

The information and cybersecurity program is an updated version of the computer networking and securing information technology degree. Students will identify and address critical threats; assist with forensic analysis of cyber incidents, compliance, data and system integrity; understand network infrastructure and more.

“We have rebranded and redone the curriculum for these programs,” Mentzer said. “They are designed to be more worker-friendly for those who are already in the field, (so that they will) be able to come in and bring their prior experience with them while gaining a certificate or degree along the way.”

The plumbing program, which is a one-year commitment, gives students skills for installation at new residential and commercial construction sites, as well as an ability to complete repair services for bathtubs, drains, faucets and water heaters.

Partnering with La’James International College, a new cosmetology program offers online classes and hands-on training. The program includes two courses at the start of the fall term that help fulfill necessary requirements for the LJIC Cosmetology program.

In addition to the nearly 70 one- and two-year degree options at Iowa Central, there are 30 transfer majors. Students who plan to transfer to a four-year college save, on average, approximately $10,000 per year attending Iowa Central first.

“It’s truly a seamless path to transfer,” Mentzer said.

The community has lauded the efforts of Iowa Central as it enters yet another new phase of educating and preparing Tritons for the real world.

“We’ve had a great response so far – especially within our career academies. We have students for every program,” Mentzer said. “Seeing how local employers saw a need and came to us to fill that need speaks volumes about Iowa Central’s relationship with Fort Dodge and the surrounding communities that we serve.”

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