Originally published in the Times Argus on March 23, 2019, as part of their “Vermont by Degrees” series.

Robyn St. Peter never thought college was in her future. She worked as a firefighter, an EMT, and a special education paraprofessional. She raised four children. Two years ago, while working as an LNA at UVM Medical Center, she realized that college could be part of her life after all.

In the spring of 2017, she earned 33 college credits through a program offered by CCV in partnership with UVM Medical Center. She then continued at CCV to complete an associate degree, and transferred to Vermont Tech. Today, she is well on her way to her dream of becoming an RN.

St. Peter earned those 33 credits through CCV’s Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) class. APL gives students the chance to earn college credit for knowledge they’ve gained on the job, in the military, through volunteer work, or on their own. CCV has been partnering with businesses throughout Vermont to make this class available to employees. St. Peter says she simply would not be where she is today without it.

In 2020, CCV will celebrate 50 years of creating opportunity for Vermonters. As an open admissions college, CCV has a proud history of welcoming all who can benefit from higher education, regardless of age, income level, or background.

When we think of creating opportunity for all Vermonters, we consider not only the needs of students who want to acquire new skills and knowledge, but also the needs of employers who depend on CCV to train their workforce. We serve as a bridge to a better, more secure future for both.

CCV embraces its responsibility as an institution of and for Vermonters, and as an institution that is rooted in community. I have long believed that we are only as strong as our relationships are deep. Our approach to higher education is a collaborative one: We ask questions, and we listen. We convene conversations with businesses and employers as well as high schools, technical centers, and community organizations. And we invite everyone to the table, because we want to hear about the workforce challenges facing employers from health care to manufacturing, from Brattleboro to Newport. As a result, we have grown more familiar with the needs of more Vermonters, from working single moms to business leaders.

One of the relationships I’d like to highlight is our partnership with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (BMH). In 2015, the Hospital approached us because they faced an ongoing challenge finding qualified medical assistants. We developed an accelerated training program that featured BMH sponsorship and immediate employment opportunities. We have so far celebrated the graduation of three cohorts from this program, with nearly two dozen once-vacant positions now filled. In helping to meet BMH’s staffing needs, we have also met the needs of Vermonters who were seeking better jobs.

Sandy Sherman completed the program in January, and she now works as a medical assistant at Brattleboro Internal Medicine, part of the BMH Medical Group. She said the scholarship, and the accelerated curriculum, helped her make a transition to the medical field that she’d been attempting for nearly a decade—but for Sandy, as for many CCV students, life circumstances were getting in the way. “I’m doing something that I really wanted to do,” she said of her new job. “I was able to complete what I started. It all came full circle for me, which has made me really happy.”

CCV also builds relationships with manufacturers around the state, from GE Aviation to Darn Tough to Hazelett Corporation. When we learned about the skills gap facing the manufacturing industry, we responded by offering the Certified Production Technician (CPT) program, which provides workers with the skills they need to either launch or advance their careers. Since 2015, nearly 400 Vermonters have participated in CPT trainings. Between 2015 and 2018, those who completed the CPT program have seen an average wage increase of $5,798 after 1 year.

Given the complexity of the challenges facing higher education, we know we won’t survive by working in isolation. At CCV, our future success is grounded in the strength and integrity of our partnerships. This belief has served us in our mission to meet the workforce needs of Vermont, and it will continue to guide the College as we go forward.

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