September 18, 2013

Maine community colleges get $13 million IT grant

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Maine's community colleges will share a $13 million federal grant to expand information technology offerings, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Wednesday.

The seven community colleges, which applied as a consortium, with Central Maine Community College in Auburn as the leader, plan to use the money on a project called "Maine Is IT!" They expect it to serve 2,100 students in the next three years.

"The thing about information technology is that it spans many different industries in Maine," said Helen Pelletier, spokeswoman for the Maine Community College System. "By focusing on IT, which is a critical need in so many types of jobs, we're able to serve multiple employers and multiple industries, everything from health care to precision machining to computing."

The grant will support new or expanded one-year certificate and two-year degree programs at all of the community colleges. Each of the colleges will pilot new instructional approaches or program offerings, then share their findings with the others.

Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, the third-largest of state's seven campuses, got $2.2 million. It will add certificate programs in computer technology, health care information technology, information technology and mobile systems technology.

Central Maine Community College will receive $4.7 million; Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, $1.4 million; Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle, $153,121; Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, $3.2 million; Washington County Community College in Calais, $404,158; and York County Community College in Wells, $1.1 million.

Higher education institutions in 36 states received grants as part of a competitive award process for $474.5 million from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program, which funds training for unemployed workers, especially those affected by foreign trade. Industries included health care, advanced manufacturing, mining and transportation.

The Maine colleges' proposal names Bath Iron Works, L.L. Bean and Oxford Networks as employer partners who have committed to providing guidance on curriculum and content, offering internships and mentoring to program participants and considering graduates for jobs.

Colleges that receive more funding will develop programs to be shared with ones that receive less money, Pelletier said. In addition, the grant requires that any new course materials or strategies be documented and then be made available to anyone who wants to use them.

Pelletier said the community colleges do not maintain waiting lists, but a majority of the system's information technology programs are full to capacity or beyond.

In addition to the new programs at KVCC in Fairfield, outdated equipment used to teach existing associate degree programs in computer technology and computer electronics will be replaced.

Richard Hopper, the college's president, said that should attract more students, both individuals and groups of workers sent for training.

"This is a really important investment in an institution that really needs to upgrade a lot of its hardware and software and match the training to the labor market needs," Hopper said.

Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

smcmillan@mainetoday.com

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