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Grants will help Great Falls College-MSU fill critical needs

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Posted at 12:32 PM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 09:36:09-04

GREAT FALLS — Great Falls College-MSU announced on Tuesday that it will be extending its respiratory therapy program, exploring remote welding, and offering a chance for computer professionals to earn industry certification thanks to three grants awarded by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief program.



Governor Steve Bullock and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian announced more than $2.2 million in funding that will be distributed to 19 projects supporting workforce development and remote education delivery for Montanans.

Scott Thompson, Great Falls College marketing and communications director, said in a news release that they are excited to be part of several of those projects, including a $180,000 partnership with City College MSU-B in Billings and Gallatin College MSU in Bozeman. The partnership will be the start of a OneMSU Workforce Consortium that will see Great Falls College’s respiratory therapy program not only come out of moratorium but expand its reach across northcentral, eastern, and southwestern Montana as part of a pilot project to share a multi-campus program. Although respiratory therapy will be the focus of this initial effort, the long-term goal of the consortium is to expand to other programs, allowing the three colleges to offer their programs to students in other communities.

“Our healthcare partners across Montana let us know how valuable our respiratory therapy graduates are and how needed they are throughout the state,” said Dr. Susan Wolff, CEO/dean of Great Falls College. “We are extremely excited to be bringing our high-quality program to a broader reach of the state, and we can’t wait to see other programs added to the OneMSU Workforce Consortium.”

The OneMSU Workforce project is modeled after Great Falls College’s surgical technology program. Students in Great Falls attend class face-to-face, while students in Billings and Bozeman tune in remotely from their home campus. Students also take all general education and prerequisites at their home campus. Clinical education and lab work are completed at a healthcare facility in the student’s home community.

This year will be used to prepare respiratory therapy to use the same model. Starting in fall 2021, respiratory therapy students will be admitted from all three campuses. In subsequent years, all three campuses will offer other programs making best use of system resources and expanding the educational opportunities through the larger region. This model allows students to stay, learn and work in their home communities.

"In facilities where there's a huge need for respiratory therapy and maybe they don't have any therapists or they can't recruit therapists to come live there, they'll be able to use their own local talent and their own local students to work their way through the program and then become employable at their facilities,” said Brian Cayko, Respiratory Therapy Program director.

Great Falls College also received $19,625 to deliver and market industry-recognized cybersecurity CompTIA credentials for workers currently in the field. CompTIA certifications are stackable and support workers looking to improve their knowledge and skills in this important field. The cost for these credentials can be prohibitive for current entry-level security workers or employees in other jobs wanting to enter the field of cybersecurity. The grant allows the college to offset some of those costs.

Classes will be delivered using remote technologies allowing working professionals to attend cybersecurity classes at the college, preparing them to test for the CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ industry certificates. The non-credit classes will be provided though Lifelong Learning. The Network+ class will be provided during the college’s second eight-week block, starting October 12. The other two classes will be offered in the spring.

Enrollees will participate in the current certification+ courses offered through the college’s computer information technology program, thus providing degree and non-degree-seeking students the opportunity to learn from those currently employed in the field.

Great Falls College also received $17,340 to use remote technologies to deliver welding instruction and certification opportunities for job seekers or incumbent workers in the northcentral region of the state. The college will work with employers to identify skill and knowledge gaps of their employees and deliver instruction and certification onsite. The technologies also can be used to deliver instruction to other remote sites and high schools.

Great Falls College also is part of an MSU Northern-led collaboration with Gallatin College and the MSU Billings Career Center that received $250,000 for accelerated apprenticeship education in plumbing and electrical programs.

The college also is part of a Missoula-College collaboration with partners Bitterroot College in Hamilton, City College and Gallatin College to develop a statewide certificate program in construction technology. That project received $150,000.