Construction Projects Build New Career Pathways for Atlantic Cape Students

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The exciting new construction projects taking place at all three Atlantic Cape campuses will do more than just transform the institution into another collective pretty face.

This beauty will also have brains, as the multi-faceted facelift − the most ambitious in the college’s 48-year history − will enable Atlantic Cape to better prepare students to pursue attractive career paths, along a road paved with advanced academic and/or vocational training.

The Changing Roles of Community Colleges

Nowadays, community colleges across the country are obliged to fulfill more than one function.

“Community colleges need to do two things,” said Atlantic Cape President Dr. Peter L. Mora. “They need to provide students with a transferable education as a pathway to a four-year degree; that will never change.”

Additionally, community colleges are in a position to fill the void created by the dearth of technical and vocational training available to high school students, by providing practical training that is not necessarily degree-oriented.

“The role of the community college is now in flux,” said Dr. Richard Perniciaro, vice president of Planning, Research and Executive Support at Atlantic Cape. “We now need to provide career and academic programs. So we are focusing on both skill training and academic programs.”

As Dr. Mora further pointed out, two-year colleges are required to “put a mirror up to the community,” to determine the educational and training needs from a practical perspective that are of the greatest benefit to the regions in which they are located.

“One example is the culinary area, because the main component to our area is tourism,” he said. “Health care is another example. The third is aviation; we have an FAA site (the William J. Hughes Technical Center) here that is tops in the country.”

And we can’t forget this region is highly vulnerable to the devastating effects of natural disasters − which was painfully illustrated by Hurricane Sandy − necessitating the training of rescue and preparedness personnel.

Thus, the new construction is designed to meet the unique needs of the community; by creating environments that will best accommodate education and training for a variety of degree and noncredit training programs.

Ensuring Student Success

In addition to the new $15.9 million Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) building under construction at the main Mays Landing Campus and the $10 million hospitality wing slated for the Charles D. Worthington Atlantic City Campus, all three campuses will boast new Student Success Centers with activities designed to prepare students for the real world.

While existing space at WACC and the Cape May County Campus will be reconfigured for this purpose, an entirely new $7.2 million, two-story structure will be built at the Mays Landing Campus.

“Not to be confused with a student activity center, the Student Success Centers will be designed to supplement classroom instruction with tutoring, mentoring, career advisement and a writing center, to help raise the graduation level,”
Dr. Perniciaro said.

Three state bonds for a total of $8.2 million are funding the centers.

In addition, A Building at the Mays Landing Campus will undergo an almost $3 million renovation, with space that will be vacated following the completion of the STEM building to be reconfigured into general classrooms with computer and math labs.

“We will also be adding a TV studio to A Building, to complement the Communication program,”
Dr. Perniciaro revealed.

Retrofitting for the Future

Meanwhile, there will be lots of repurposing and expansions of existing space to further enhance Atlantic Cape’s ability to prepare students for future careers and advancement in existing professions.

The new Caesars Entertainment Wing for Hospitality and Gaming Studies − which will be up and running at WACC in fall 2014 − is a prime example.

In addition to housing the long established Casino Career Institute, the 20,000 square-foot expansion will include two teaching kitchens and will serve as a central training facility for introductory and advanced culinary arts.

This is a non-degreed certification option designed primarily to enable casino workers and others who are already employed in the food industry to enhance their skills. This is being funded jointly by Atlantic County and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, as well as designated funds from Caesars Entertainment.

“We already offered a five-month training program in Mays Landing and Cape May County,” explained Chef Kelly McClay, dean of the Academy of Culinary Arts. “We are now going to offer this out of Atlantic City, as its primary home. We will offer a five-month, noncredit culinary and baking and pastry program.”

New Degree and Training Programs to Take Flight

Not only will the new construction and building additions enable Atlantic Cape to expand the degree and noncredit programs the college already offers, there are some exciting new ones, with more on the horizon.

The big news in late 2013 was the announcement that the college would offer the course Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems beginning with the spring 2014 semester.

“New Jersey was designated by the federal government as a test site for UAS, one of six in the country to receive this designation,” Dr. Perniciaro said. “Not only are these used by the military, they are also being used by law enforcement, during forest fires and for other purposes.”

The college has also established several aviation-related degree programs.

“We can train air traffic controllers to pilots,” Dr. Mora said. “The most important job of the Tech Center is to protect the safety of our national air space. There are areas of serious study required for certification, which we provide.”

In addition, Atlantic Cape received a grant from the federal government to offer paramedic training as a non-degreed certification program.

As a result of these exciting projects, the college will be in a better position to train both current and future professionals to best meet the needs of the community.

“The building plans were put together specifically to coordinate academic needs,” Dr. Perniciaro said. “We are coordinating the functions of the buildings with new programs and career pathways for students.”

Alissa Wolf

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