Making it work

Need training? There’s an app for that here

Rural counties are, more often than not, at a disadvantage when it comes to job training. Madison County is decidedly not deficient in that area — considering two important factors in its favor: CareerSource North Florida and North Florida Community College. In fact, these two resources cover not just Madison, but Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Suwannee and Taylor counties as well.

“We are very proud, here at CareerSource North Florida, to be a highly valued member of economic development teams throughout our region. Providing individuals with help to locate the best job for them, and our businesses, with the ‘first-hire, best hire’ is our part of building thriving communities, one family at a time and one business at a time,” said Executive Director Sheryl Rehberg. “It is our pleasure as the ‘go-to source for jobs and training’ to serve our communities. Our success is built by partnerships and excellent service.” 

CareerSource North Florida is an important tool in providing testing, training and job-skills evaluation for adults and young jobseekers alike, according to spokeswoman Diane Head.

“If an employer has a new piece of machinery they need workers trained how to use, the employer can bring in the vendor and pay them to train their employees, and then we could reimburse them for that training,” Head said. “Also, if they bring on a new employee that has a skill gap we can close that gap by an on-the-job training contract. We have youth programs and youth career consultants, and we manage a summer youth program where kids go into the community at work sites and do actual work. That’s something we do every summer.”

NFCC is an ally in those training efforts and has vocational training in areas such as allied health, pharmacy, nursing and law enforcement.

“If a company needs training ramped up, NFCC is ready to step up and do that. I don’t know if there is a limit to what they will consider. We can, without any hesitation, refer our employers to NFCC,” Head said.

Located in Madison, North Florida Community College is one of the last remaining state colleges to have “community” in its name. College President John Grosskopf said the college is in the process of having a baccalaureate program approved, at which point it is expected to drop “community” for “state.” But nothing else is going to change, he said. The college remains dedicated to its core mission.


North Florida Community College ranks among the best in the U.S.

“We exist for serving the needs of the people in our (six-county) district,” he said. “The kind of college we have to be is defined by the people we serve. One of the things we don’t want to lose is the understanding of how that relationship works. We are here to serve the community. The mission will continue.”

NFCC offers a wide range of technical education courses that include practical nursing, registered nursing, pharmacy technician, early childhood education, child care center management, emergency medical services, paramedic, fire fighter, public safety, corrections and criminal justice. In terms of workforce, its biggest program is “Allied Health.” To improve health care options in the region, Grosskopf said the college has embraced the philosophy of  “growing” its own health care workers.

“And so that’s really important to us. We’ve got a lot of extraordinarily bright folks, and the trick is to give them the training to be successful in allied health careers,” he said. Thanks to world-class education, though, nursing students have no problems getting jobs. A new hospital is being built right next to campus, so all kinds of interesting opportunities can be developed there, but if they want to work for bigger institutions there are many opportunities in nearby Tallahassee and Valdosta.

Grosskopf is especially proud of the health care program for its graduation rate. Admittedly, in terms of quantitative measures, NFCC can’t compete with other institutions around the state because it’s such a small, rural college (2,100 students overall, 850 FTE students). 

“But I can tell you that on qualitative measures, we can beat the pants off everybody,” he said. Last year on the licensing board exams, the first-time passing rate for nursing students in the LPN program was 100 percent while the state of Florida average pass rate was 75.3 percent and the national average was 84.6 percent. For the RN program, NFCC’s first-time pass rate on licensing boards was 91.6 percent compared to the state average of 76.7 percent and the national average of 83 percent.

“So, we do an extraordinarily good job of preparing our students to be successful. And I guess that’s one of the things that folks that want to set up businesses or really build a life in my beautiful part of the state need to know. It’s easy to overlook us because we’re small; however, when you do take a look at us you realize that what we do, we do very well,” he said.

The accolades don’t end there. Every three years, Washington Monthly Magazine publishes a ranking of the top community colleges in the nation — and, there are more than 2,500 community colleges to judge and rank. NFCC is ranked second.

“It’s a phenomenal accomplishment, but it comes from the dedication of the staff of this college in fulfilling our mission, and the biggest part of our mission is helping the district we serve find success,” said Grosskopf. “And one of the things we believe here is it’s not our job to define success. Individual students, potential employers, they define what that means. Our job is to get students from wherever they are to that point. 

“We are an open-door institution, which means it doesn’t matter what your skill set is, it doesn’t matter what your background experiences are, it doesn’t matter where you are in your educational path, we take you as we find you and we work very hard to get you to wherever it is you need to be. And so if someone is interested in opening a business or moving, they’ve got a tremendously strong resource to tap into at NFCC.”