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USU Eastern positions itself for ship in career development

USU Eastern is positioning itself to become a regional leader as a community career center.

Joe Peterson, chancellor of Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah, announced that the college will be taking a fresh approach to its traditional career-building role in three main areas: enhancement of its partnership with the Department of Workforce Services (DWS), emphasis on skill evaluations, and simplification of the process for those pursuing careers and local industry seeking employees.

"We want USU Eastern to become synonymous with careers," Peterson said. "It is part of our mission to create a strong workforce that will sustain our region."

Peterson said USU Eastern already has in place the infrastructure and mechanisms needed for this leadership role.  

"We are confident that through realigning priorities and restructuring we can have a major economic impact in the Greater Price area," he said.  

With this in mind, USU Eastern and DWS, in partnership with Carbon and Emery Economic Development, are zeroing in on local industries. Their focus is on determining what labor skills local industries need in the area to stay abreast of production needs. These snapshots will then be used by USU Eastern and DWS to either ramp up existing programs or guide them in developing new ones.

The result will be a more relevant and direct connection between labor skills needed and the labor training necessary, said Miles Nelson, associate vice chancellor over the Workforce Education Division at USU Eastern.

In addition to assessing labor needs, USU Eastern will provide skill assessments. If a person is in need of retooling or learning new skills, he or she will be able to enroll in specific courses taught at USU Eastern.

"The college will consider new courses to meet specific needs as they are identified," Nelson said. "DWS's role is to refer or sponsor individuals into the skill evaluations and to provide motivation and support."  

To help simplify the sometimes daunting task of job preparation and hiring, USU Eastern is currently in the process of developing a Center for Workforce Education.

"The concept of creating such a center is a vision that began with Chancellor Peterson of having all of our Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and resources more accessible and visible to the community and local industry," Nelson said. "It will provide a more direct access to programs in a one-stop shop approach. The goal is to be as user friendly as possible for those seeking careers or employees."  

The new center's top priority is on improving coordination with the local business community and to make itself widely recognized as the go-to place for all things employment related. If any chasm currently exists between employer needs and career seeker qualifications in the region, the center hopes to close the gap.   

The result should be more prospective students turning to USU Eastern for workforce training and more local businesses working with the college to get qualified workers.  

It is a model the suits USU Eastern as a regional comprehensive college and one that fits well with President Barack Obama's recent State of the Union challenge for community colleges to become "community career centers."  

"Our college was founded on the belief that education opens doors to new opportunities," Peterson said. "We have never strayed from that principle. Our efforts to enhance our community partnerships and employment opportunities for residents in the region only serve to reaffirm that long-standing commitment."

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