COOKEVILLE – College graduates face challenges if they try to enter the workforce without experience. The Work-Based Learning (WBL) program at Volunteer State Community sets up partnerships with area businesses to provide students with work opportunities while they are still in college.
“Work-Based Learning is a high-impact practice,” said the administrator of Work-Based Learning, Rick Parrent. “It’s a college course-based, for-credit experience. Many of the students in WBL courses are compensated financially by the employers.”
Currently, the majority of WBL courses are in Business and Technology, Education, Criminal Justice, Health Sciences, and Mechatronics. Other options include Communication, English, and Music. New courses are added each year.
“The WBL and the reserves led to me being hired as full-time police officer,” said Vol State graduate Perry Foxx. “I gained real-world experience and training during WBL, which goes hand in hand with what I’m currently learning at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy. It put me ahead of the learning curve.”
Students can also use WBL experience to enhance their future career skills, even if the company is quite different from their path. Courtney “Nikki” McQuiston is taking classes at Vol State to be a pediatric nurse someday. Her WBL experience is at Walt Disney World Resort. That may sound like an odd match, until you hear her explain it.
“Every day I meet different people from different cultures, and different countries,” McQuiston said. “I need to have that experience to work with kids from different backgrounds in my career. I’m also taking Disney Leadership courses.”
McQuiston takes classes at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC). Sherrie Cannon, CHEC coordinator of Student Services, helped her get started.
“She has helped me so much. She had to push me to do this. She’s helped me all the way,” McQuiston said.
Businesses can achieve a ready-made training and recruitment program that involves Vol State faculty, which can in turn help the academic programs grow to meet industry needs.
“Employers receive talented individuals who want to grow individually and professionally,” Parrent said. “Businesses also gain a valuable connection to the college and a network for new employees.”