How Kent County Colleges are Preparing Students for Delaware’s Workforce

Courtesy of Delaware State University

With booming business comes job openings.

And the colleges and universities of Kent County are looking to graduate the top candidates.

Wesley College, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical and Community College and Wilmington University all have locations within Kent County and are working to meet the needs of the growing business sectors.

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Each of these schools works with local businesses, analyzes trends and asks people in the workforce what degrees and certifications their employees need. The institutions design programs using that knowledge base.

Del Tech Campus
Courtesy of Delaware Technical Community College

Schools have to have the ability to train when students are available and in areas where they are needed and will be needed, says Paul Morris, associate vice-president of workforce development and community education at Delaware Technical and Community College. At the Terry Campus in Dover, they offer courses in snowplow training year-round. It’s the type of skill that’s an add-on to another job, but it’s also a skill that must be developed before it’s needed.

“Our main goal is to provide courses for all our constituencies. Workforce development is our big push,” says Amystique Church, executive director for testing services and adult and continuing education for Delaware State University. DSU offers pre-employment and job evaluation testing for local businesses to help them hire the right people and provide training when needed.

DSU Students
Courtesy of Delaware State University

The university also offers customized training, graduate prep sessions, non-credit programs (certificate and certifications), training workshops and seminars in everything from HVAC training and plumbing to financial planning, court reporting and massage therapy. The certificate courses include titles like Project Management Bootcamp, Soft Skills Mastery and Effective Leadership Master Class.

The courses are designed to encompass undergraduates as well as people who have been in the workforce for a while and want to increase their skills. But DSU doesn’t begin its work with adults only. They have programs that reach out to students as young as sixth grade to help them figure out their paths.

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“Not everyone is on the path to college and that’s OK. Some are going to a career,” says Church. “It is so important.”

Healthcare, education and technology are three of the top areas all schools are developing right now. With the expansion of the Bayhealth Medical System and the addition of the new Post Acute Medical Rehabilitation hospital in Dover, there is a need for skilled nursing, but also for more people to run the technology departments, handle book-keeping and train new hires and clients.

Informatics—the data science of moving information around—is something that has become big at Wesley College, says Jeff Gibson, provost and vice-president of academic affairs. Wesley works to layer certifications with different degrees in high need areas. For example, someone studying education can also get a certification in coaching.

DSU Campus
Courtesy of Delaware State University

“These days it’s a lot of stacking credentials,” says Gibson. Wesley also offers micro-credentialing—earning mini-degrees or certifications in a specific topic areas. Prospective employers look for variety in people’s training, he said.

Flexibility is also key for students looking to increase skills and/or return to school while still working. Making sure education is flexible, convenient and practitioner-based is the mission of Wilmington University. Wilmington’s classes are in the evening, weekends and online to cater to students who are working and trying to increase their skills.

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Wilmington offers 200 programs and certifications that are career focused, says Erin DiMarco, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Wilmington University. All of the certificate programs can be used toward a bachelor’s degree.

Delaware Technical Community College
Courtesy of Delaware Technical Community College

“We are building programs that will yield employment,” DiMarco says. In Kent they also help place students in work-integrated partnerships and internships to give them real world experience in local businesses. Those students have 98-percent job placement at graduation, she says.

Right now, the Kent campus is offering new programs in forensic analysis, technology, education, business management, finance and marketing—skills that local employers have requested.

It’s important that local colleges match their degrees and certifications with areas of need in Delaware, says Robert Clark, president of the college. More than 80 percent of Wesley graduates find jobs and stay in Delaware.

“It’s actually pretty exciting,” he says.

Published as “Graduating to Success” in Delaware Today‘s 2020 Kent County Guide.

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