Grand County Higher Education focuses on bringing higher learning options to Grand County
Several years ago officials from the Grand County-based nonprofit Grand Foundation looked at the educational and career development options for area adults and realized something was missing: colleges, technical schools and really much of any post-high school education programs.
To address the dearth of post-secondary education options in the region, Grand Foundation established Grand County Higher Education with a mission of connecting residents and the workforce to pathways for continued learning.
In February 2016, they hired Scott Springston to head the organization and spearhead its push to establish academic, vocational and career oriented educational opportunities in Grand County.
After a year-and-a-half under Springston’s leadership, which was spent developing the program, establishing partnerships and conducting initial instruction sessions, Grand County Higher Education is looking to expand its offerings and establish the entity as an independent 501(c)3 organization.
Grand County Higher Education does not serve as a school, rather the organization works to facilitate connections between students, instructors and needed classes. Higher Education is a clearinghouse of sorts where people can seek out classes to further their education or careers.
GCHE has worked with several local businesses to help find instructors and set up Responsible Alcohol Server classes for the businesses’ employees, just one example falling under the organization’s mission.
According to Springston, GCHE currently has no plans to create a brick-and-mortar college facility in Grand County, noting the creation of a physical campus would require investment and resources beyond the scope of GCHE’s current abilities.
“Our focus is not on a campus,” Springston said. “Our focus is on finding needs and meeting those needs.”
The organization, instead, is focusing its instruction efforts on three core areas: hospitality and the tourism industry, construction trades, and college and career readiness. Springston says in future years he hopes to expand the organization’s focus to include other career core areas including healthcare.
The three areas were selected by GCHE after reviewing local workforce data developed by the State’s demographer.
“We took that data in combination with meetings with local people,” Springston explained. “We all came together to identify those three areas.”
Moving forward, GCHE is working closely with Grand County Economic Development and some of the larger local resort entities, such as Devil’s Thumb Ranch and YMCA-Snow Mountain Ranch, to create employee training programs to further the skills of local workers and hopefully reduce turnover rates with nonseasonal employees.
The organization is also working with Grand County’s local school districts and some local businesses and tradesmen to establish career development options. Under the framework GCHE is looking to lock down ancillary classes and coursework to help younger adults and recent graduates find viable careers and secure the necessary certifications needed to work in their desired field.
“We are hoping to expose students to educational and career exploration,” Springston said. “We want to design a robust internship program. The goal is to expose them to what the 21st century workplace looks like and what businesses need in terms of skills.”
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