Each year, Bladen Community College educates and trains hundreds of nurses, first responders, law enforcement officers, childcare workers, and others, preparing them for careers as vital service providers in our community.
Now, in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, these professionals are even in higher demand as the “essential workers” they are – critical to the safe operation of our community. They report to work, regardless of personal risk, and they gladly answer the call.
“As a community college, it is part of our mission to support our community. It is a great source of honor and pride for our trustees, faculty and staff to provide educational opportunities for those seeking meaningful jobs that touch lives and make a positive difference especially in such challenging times,” remarked Dr. Amanda Lee, President of Bladen Community College.
The term essential worker was not used for the first time with the COVID-19 pandemic. Whenever an emergency, crisis or natural disaster arises, such as a hurricane, certain functions in the workforce are deemed to be essential, requiring the individuals who perform them to respond.
We can all name people, family and friends alike, who fall into this category. These include doctors and nurses, utility workers, law enforcement and fire protection personnel, and IT technicians, among others. Basically, these are the people who allow the rest of us to deal with a crisis situation with a minimum of danger or discomfort.
First responders are not the only essential workers. Front-line workers, people who stock shelves in grocery stores and other retail staff, mail carriers, meat plant workers, warehouse and transportation workers, farmers, and custodians and janitorial staff, joined the ranks of recognized essential workers.
Many healthcare, safety and front-line occupations, require skills training, a postsecondary certificate or degree as the minimum educational requirement.
Community colleges, such as Bladen Community College, play a significant role in preparing students for essential occupations. Students can work towards a two-year associate degree in their chosen field such as nursing or agri-business technology. Some students pursue a credential, including an industry-recognized certification or receive training as part of an employer-paid program such as Mechatronics. Individuals who desire to change careers or start on a different path can seek workforce development training in an area such as client services representative certificate.
Bladen Community College partners with local employers in apprenticeship programs. While most of the apprenticeship programs are in the traditional fields of construction trades and manufacturing, some are termed as a new breed of apprenticeship programs many including essential occupations in healthcare, information technology, agriculture, and financial services.
Area residents interested in furthering their education and learning a new skill now have an unprecedented opportunity at Bladen County Community College because of a program called GEER. Bladen Community College recently received over $93,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to expand educational opportunities and workforce development programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GEER funds specifically will be made available for students who may have been impacted by COVID-19, through loss of a job, reduction of hours, increased transportation or childcare costs or having to become a caregiver for a sick family member. These funds are available until September 30, 2022. Students who have been impacted by COVID-19 qualify for the scholarships, up to a maximum of either $750. Scholarships help cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, supplies, credentialing tests, transportation, childcare and other components as deemed necessary. Workforce Training classes that are less than 96 contact hours or not tied to an industry-recognized credential, as well as personal enrichment classes, are not covered under scholarships.
“This critical funding provides scholarships that will help our students obtain the skills they need to build a better future for themselves, their families, and our community,” said Sondra Guyton, Vice-President for Continuing Education. She added, “Bladen Community College now can help every student who earns a high school equivalency diploma also earn an industry-recognized credential such as nurse aide, pharmacy technician, EMT, or NC Firefighter.”