MCCC's Career Training Institute Moves to New
Headquarters; Welcomes Visitors to Open House


Banks of new computers and spacious, well-lit classrooms greet students at the new headquarters of Mercer County Community College's Career Training Institute (CTI). Following its recent move to a new site at the Daylight-Twilight High School in Trenton, the center hosted an open house on March 18 to highlight its services and facilities. Approximately 125 visitors toured the CTI's seven classrooms and administrative and career counseling offices on the top two floors of the high school, located down the street from Mercer's James Kerney Campus.

The CTI is enjoying its new home, according to Director Bob Estok. He notes that all CTI students in both administrative and culinary training programs take basic classes in English and math at the site, while the administrative students spend all their time there. (Culinary students train at the industrial kitchen at the James Kerney Campus, where they prepare and serve meals for JKC's Center City Café.)

The four-hour Open House gave guests an opportunity to tour the facilities, meet staff and faculty, and learn more about the program. Addressing a group of ESL students who visited from the Kerney Campus, Estok stressed that the CTI program continues to have success putting people to work. "We provide the entry level skills that get you jobs," he told the group. Estok maintains that despite the economic downturn, the job placement rate for CTI students in Culinary and Office Professional remains high.

Estok explains that the office curriculum is designed to provide both the basics and a specialized area of competency. Students take courses in math, English, keyboarding and computer concepts. Then they pick a specific area of concentration in either general secretarial, medical, accounting, legal or pc applications.

According to accounting/keyboarding instructor Daisy Thomas, some students may not know how to turn on a computer when they start the program. "By the end, they are typing 50 words per minute. Accounting is tougher, but we work really hard together. I'm best teacher I know!" she says with a smile. Thomas teaches accounting concepts manually first and then the class learns Quick Books and Peach Tree. "We're teaching 2007 - the latest versions," she notes.

Also covered in the Office Professional curriculum are the critical people skills for the workplace. In a class called "Equipped for the Future," students focus on communication, conflict resolution, and establishing and attaining realistic goals.
Placement/career counselor Vanessa Silverman works to place students in appropriate jobs. She also teaches a 20-hour program that covers a wide range of job-related issues - personal values, networking, interviewing, and preparing a resume.

For 27-year-old student Aisha Wimbush, MCCC's Career Training Institute was a great way for her to train for an office job. Nearing completion of the seven-month program, Wimbush has elected to concentrate in the legal secretarial area and will soon start her job search with specialized knowledge of legal terminology and business law.

"I've gotten help with my resume and learned the do's and don'ts of interviewing," Wimbush said, adding that the idea of the job search is now far less daunting. She says that CTI staff are keeping her posted on job openings in her field.

Student Krystina Santos of Trenton is training to work in a medical office, but has eventual plans to become a nurse. "I love to help people," she says. Referred to CTI through the Mercer County One-Stop Career Center, Santos recalls being nervous when she started the program two months ago, but "I have learned so much. My teachers have been great - really friendly and helpful." There is also valuable camaraderie with other students. "We socialize and help each other," Santos says.

Upon graduation, CTI students earn a certificate. And that's the piece of paper that helps employment agencies like Joule Business Services in Hamilton feel confident in sending them out to clients.

According to Joule Branch Manager Palma Patrocinio-Matos, who attended the Open House, her firm is looking for the best job candidates. "We try to capture CTI's graduating class. These grads have an advantage over those who haven't been through a training program. CTI prepares students with many marketable skills including training in the latest computer software. It's an attractive, professional atmosphere for students to learn in." She also applauds the portion of the curriculum that covers such topics as workplace wardrobes, interviewing skills and communication.

Student Aisha Wimbush hard at work
in one of CTI's new classrooms.
CTI staff includes from left, Sharol Hobbs, Viola Baulkman, Daisy Thomas, Barry Kirsch, Gwen Lockhart,
Director Bob Estok and Vanessa Hunter Silverman
Estok explains CTI benefits and services
to a group of visiting ESL students.
Keyboarding/accounting instructor Daisy Thomas takes students from beginner to proficient.

June Morreale teaches "Equipped for the Future."

Student Alfonsie Holland received his CTI certificate and is ready for the workplace. He is pictured with Sharol Hobbs, who teaches office administration.
Instructor Viola Baulkman (in purple) provides
one-on-one instruction in MS Office software.

Estok notes that CTI is all about student success. "We do not fail anybody; we help students succeed," Estok said. The training is free for those who are referred through the One-Stop Center. Those not eligible for the free tuition can apply for a Pell Grant, which pays seventy-five percent of the cost of the $4,000 program. With an open door, CTI allows students to begin at any time and learn in small classes with an emphasis on individualized instruction. Prerequisites include a high school diploma or GED; non-native English speakers may need to take ESL classes first. Once a student graduates from the program, he or she is still entitled to come back to brush up on skills or for career development advice.

Additionally, graduates are offered a free, three-credit course to continue their education at MCCC. "It's a chance to try out college," Estok says. He estimates that half of CTI students continue on at Mercer to earn their associate degree. "I tell students that education is the key to success. The more you learn, the higher your income will be."

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