On Thursday, Garden City Community College will dedicate its new agriculture mobile classroom.

Our Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman will be the dedication speaker. The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot immediately east of the John Collins Technical Vocational Building. You're all invited to join us.

Tours of the custom-made semi-trailer will be available, and there is a reception following the dedication in the lobby of the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts building. The mobile classroom was obtained with the idea of providing educational access to more Kansans. The college will be able to take the trailer anywhere in Kansas, as well as neighboring states. The classroom can literally go to restaurant and food processing facility sites to train personnel.

In 2012, Congress passed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act which requires more workers to inspect restaurants, cafeterias, and meat packing and food processing plants any facility that provides food to the public. The act gives the FDA the authority to order food product recalls, requires greater frequency of inspections and focuses those inspections on potential risk. It also stipulates that food processing facilities write and follow food safety plans, in addition to addressing natural and man-made risks to the safety of fresh products.

GCCC's new Food Science program will prepare students to work in various food industries by providing courses in the meat and food science that focus on quality assurance and food safety. The Food Science program and mobile classroom will help meet the growing need for credentialed personnel in the field of meat and food safety inspection.

In addition to the mobile agriculture classroom, GCCC's program has a newly renovated lab and a dedicated classroom in the John Collins Vocational Building on campus. The new meats lab includes an attached cooler/freezer that houses refrigeration for safe food handling, cutting tables, a packager, and a meat smoker. The customized mobile lab features interactive whiteboards, laptop computers, and extensive instructional computer hardware and software.

Two certifications will be available to current and prospective Food Safety workers, ServSafe and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). The ServSafe training, in particular, lends itself to being conducted in the mobile classroom but it will be available on campus as well.

ServSafe trains employees in food sanitation and safety training in preparing and serving food. ServSafe is a nationally accredited food safety certificate. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) certificate allows students to enter the food safety industry via the HACCP process that identifies and prevents hazards in food production.

The name TRAC 7 is an acronym Technical Retraining to Achieve Credentials and indicates the number of partners in the grant program. The TRAC 7 consortium was granted a $20 million award from the U.S. Department of Labor. The grant is designed to support the collaborative efforts of Kansas community and technical colleges in providing workers throughout the state with academic and industry-recognized training and credentials to meet the need for a skilled workforce.

Washburn Institute of Technology is serving as the consortium leader for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant. In addition to WIT and GCCC, other members in the TRAC-7 consortium include Cloud County Community College, Concordia; Dodge City Community College: Flint Hills Technical College, Emporia; Highland Community College; and Salina Area Technical College.

Gov. Sam Brownback has emphasized short-term certifications so that Kansans can go to work sooner than if they were studying for a two-year or a four-year degree. The short-term certifications also give students the ability to earn more money while going to school if they are pursuing an associate or bachelor degree.

Stackable credentials

The phrase "stackable credentials" has been creeping into higher education over the last few years. As more and more people have become unemployed during the recession, the need for fast certifications that build on top of one another has increased.

Garden City Community College and the state of Kansas have initiated other programs that give Kansans the chance to earn short-term certifications that build upon one another. Most notably, GCCC is part of a founding group of colleges in Kansas that are implementing the "Accelerated Opportunities for Kansans" or "AO-K," as it is commonly known.

Nationally, the program is known as "Accelerating Opportunity: A Breaking Through Initiative" and is managed by Jobs for the Future in partnership with the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges, the National Council for Workforce Education, and the National College Transition Network. The initiative is funded through a groundbreaking coalition including The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. Kansas was one of only a few states that were awarded funding for the program.

One of the best examples of a typical AO-K career path at GCCC is the allied health technical career path. Adult (or traditional age) students begin by earning a GED, if needed, while earning the GED, students simultaneously begin studying to become a Certified Nurse Aid (CNA). The adult basic education instructor (teaching GED) and the career technical instructor (teaching CNA) team teach at least 25 percent of the time. This gives students the advantage of learning information on the spot that is applicable to both curriculums.

For example, in the adult basic education (ABE) program, the math portion includes mathematical foundations and GED requirements. Then, during the team teaching portion of the course, the instructors teach math skills that are specific to allied health, such as how to figure dosages. The ABE instructor can directly link the basic skills the students already have to the application in their field of study. The model is based upon the I-BEST, or Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, which has been quite successful in Washington state. The multiple entry and exit points included in the AO-K career pathway flowchart give students the flexibility of leaving the program with additional skills (read: more employable) and returning at some point in the future to earn another credentials that stacks upon the original CNA, for example.

GCCC currently offers three AO-K pathway programs. In addition to allied health, students can move at accelerated pace through welding and fire science certifications. If you or someone you know is interested in acquiring new job skills quickly, please contact GCCC Admissions at 276-9608 or email admission@gcccks.edu