Colorado Mountain College candidates: Technical training best informed by community input
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Colorado Mountain College should turn to the individual communities it serves when it comes to expanding technical training opportunities that can benefit local businesses, candidates for the college district’s board of trustees said at a Monday forum.
Speaking at the annual Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association Issues and Answers Forum, candidates for two contested seats on the CMC board in the Nov. 5 mail ballot election were asked how the college can further grow technical education.
One way to do that is to stay on top of technological advances in the program areas the college already provides, said District 2 (eastern Garfield County) candidate Mary Nelle Axelson, who is running against former Glenwood Chamber director Marianne Virgili.
“I have been active on the vet-tech advisory board, and that’s one particular area where technology is making a huge breakthrough when it comes to the new kinds of machines that are used to train our vet-techs,” Axelson, a former adjunct faculty member for the college, said.
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The same is true in the evolving technology for nursing, emergency medical providers and other types of vocational training that CMC offers.
“We have to make sure as a college that we stay on the cutting edge in what we’re offering for our students, and make sure they are prepared for the challenging work environment,” she said.
Virgili noted that there are so many emerging trends in education that it’s hard to know what’s on the horizon. But growing the programs that have already been identified as being important by the various communities CMC serves should remain a priority, she said.
“A big role of the board is to keep in touch with the emerging trends in education, health information technology, data analysis, the green energy economy and green building …,” Virgili said.
“Overall, I believe the degrees need to reflect the communities and the individual campuses, and the people and businesses in those communities, because they are the ones who pay the taxes,” she added.
Candidates for the District 6 (Lake County) seat on the CMC board — former college workers Bob Hartzell and Christine Whittington — also addressed the question of expanding and growing tech training.
Hartzell agreed that the local communities should have input in that. CMC’s Rifle campus, for instance, has seen a downturn in enrollment in engineering programs for oil and gas jobs with the slowdown in Garfield County’s energy economy, Hartzell noted.
“We need to look at the needs of the local area,” he said.
“We have to do outreach in our own communities … to make sure we know what things they are looking for,” she said.
When it comes to maintaining sustainable enrollment growth, candidates said they would turn to the expertise of college staff and to the individual communities to help determine that.
“I value their assessment of that,” Virgili said. “We have to look to the community to help determine that.”
That will be particularly true if voters in the Salida school district and across the other six CMC counties agree to annex the Salida area into the taxing district, she said.
Added Axelson, “It’s also important always to consider marketing” in those communities to help determine what course offering will be most attractive.
“We have to take all the information we can get from professionals and plan from that,” she said.
Voters from throughout the CMC district will decide both contested seats on the board of trustees.
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