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PACE program provides accelerated, stackable, career-ladder credentials
Aug. 31, 2012
The Community College of Rhode Island is leading the state with an exciting new program to put unemployed Rhode Islanders back to work in a new career as quickly as possible.
Students in the Pathways to Advance Career Education (PACE) program receive an accelerated, individualized course of study to prepare them for jobs in information technology or health care – industries that are predicted to see steady job growth and security.
The PACE program is funded by a $3.4 million federal grant, the largest in CCRI history. It is meant specifically for the unemployed, military veterans, nontraditional-age students and displaced workers – those who have lost their jobs because of heavy layoffs in their industry from foreign competition.
Program Director Cap Frank said that, while CCRI offers an associate degree in two years, PACE is meant to give people a desirable credential faster than that. Completion time will vary depending on a student’s career goals.
“Where PACE differs from traditional CCRI programming is that the PACE staff is charged by the government to accelerate job readiness,” he said.
PACE students begin by taking a no-cost vocational orientation and assessment course called Career Pathways for the 21st Century. This six- to seven-week course will assess students’ aptitudes and interests with the goal of finding a suitable niche within health care or IT. Students take Pathways classes three to four days a week and receive instruction in basic math, reading, written communication and job search skills. They also receive individualized attention from academic advisers and tutors.
Those in need may be referred to a no-cost GED® program at one of six community centers throughout the state after completing the Pathways course.
After Pathways, students will enter either an information technology or health care career track. Information technology students will be referred to CCRI courses to gain basic computer skills, qualifying them to work as administrative assistants, computer maintenance specialists or personnel in a computer help desk or call center.
Students in the medical track can elect to become certified nursing assistants, medical aides, pharmacy technicians or a host of many more patient care or other health-related professions based on their interests and aptitude.
PACE staff members work with industry partners to ensure that job openings will exist in these fields. These industry partners are The Tech Collective – an association of Rhode Island technology businesses – the Hospital Association of Rhode Island (HARI), Stepping Up and Healthcentric Advisors.
“The industry partners are absolutely key to the external part of the program,” Frank said. “They tell us what employers are looking for and what the skills gaps are.”
Both of the PACE career tracks of health care and information technology are “stackable,” Frank said, meaning that PACE graduates can continue to build on their credentials to advance professionally. Frank called this the “learn and earn” model: going to school, sometimes part time, to study career-advancing topics while simultaneously working full time.
The first session of PACE classes began in July, with another group of classes scheduled for the fall and spring semesters.
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