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Combining standalone technical programs and diverse learning opportunities, COCC's Redmond campus gets futures in gear

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY MARK RUSSELL JOHNSON
 - The COCC Redmond campus brings incredible resources to the region.

In the hybrid-electric automotive technology center at Central Oregon Community College's (COCC) Redmond campus, a five-bay learning lab opens the doors to the latest in hybrid-vehicle and electric-vehicle training. Here, a half-dozen instructional cars and the latest industry credentialing prime an inspiring learning experience. Tucker Hess, now a service technician with Tesla, remembers the feeling.

"I loved rebuilding engines, but electric machines just hit differently," said Hess, who graduated from the program with his Master Automotive Technician Certificate of Completion. "Specifically, the idea that one could separate, rebalance and rebuild a hybrid battery pack was something I found incredibly cool."

With state grant funding, COCC's automotive technology program recently acquired a preowned Tesla — the school's first — to add to the training's relevance and provide further firsthand vehicle knowledge.

"Teslas are the pinnacle of technology," said Jared Green, program director. "Their self-drive function is 10 years ahead of everybody else."

And COCC's program itself has been an innovator in the field. The college is co-leading an effort with Rio Hondo College to develop a national credentialing system for hybrid-electric vehicle technicians. Funded by support from the National Science Foundation, this credentialing will be adopted by other automotive education programs around the country. COCC has also initiated exploratory conversations with Tesla's "Start" program — company-specific training that's built as a capstone, or thesis-style, class. If the college is approved to offer the training, it would be one of only 10 such learning sites operated by the carmaker in the U.S.

Beyond the bay doors, there's plenty more happening at COCC Redmond. A glance around the campus on a recent week reveals a full plate of educational possibilities: classes in geology, human anatomy, choir, public speaking, developmental psychology and emergency medical technician training — just to name a few. Students can move from algebra to yoga on one compact campus.

Like the hybrid-electric training, there are other COCC academic programs exclusive to the Redmond campus and its associated learning facilities, with learning labs dedicated to such specialties as community health worker, veterinary technician, machining and welding.

Over in the Manufacturing and Applied Technology Center, the unmistakable sounds of welding at work — buzzes and crackles, heat scorching steel — spill from some of the facility's 15 booths. Students are practicing laying down tight welds, perfecting their technique.

The program's learning is self-paced. Students come and go depending on their schedule, using a checklist system to keep them on track for their certificate or degree. Assignments — including labs, videos, bookwork and other tasks — are completed when the student is ready. Instructors are on hand to assist with one-on-one input. The college's manufacturing program offers two degrees and four certificates.

In addition to the many technical certificates, degrees and transfer degrees that students can pursue at COCC Redmond — which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary in the community — the campus continues to bring other in-demand career-starters to the region. For Alessandra Weiss, who began a job with the Crook County Health Department this year as a health strategist, the campus's six-credit community health worker training helped her crystalize her skill set.

"A lot of the training was focused on listening to clients and allowing them to choose their own path to health, which is something that I have to do a lot as a health strategist," said the Culver resident. "My favorite part of the training was the final project, because it allowed me to learn more about my community in addition to the rest of Central Oregon." The 10-week training takes place both online and in the Technology Education Center.

Beginning this winter term, the campus's apprenticeship program — which provides classroom-based trainings for employed apprentices in the trades, such as plumbers and carpenters — will add a pre-apprenticeship component. The three-week "sampler" sessions will feature open enrollment and give students a taste of different skilled trades.

For all students, a bright and spacious windowed corner room in the Technology Education Center provides a pleasant waystation. The recently created "student commons" offers computers, couches and a spectacular, second-story view of the Cascades. On a recent evening, several students were studying and unwinding between classes. A library of some 350 titles features reading material specific to the Redmond campus programs, such as early childhood education and includes a selection of things like fiction, graphic novels and newspapers.

With its diverse list of academic options, a long history of launching careers and an inviting setting that's centrally located, the COCC Redmond campus brings incredible resources to the region. Visit cocc.edu/redmond to learn more.


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