It’s not often that I agree with Dr. Trent Saxton, but his recent letter to the editor regarding FRC’s $5000 grant from Sierra Pacific for its Welding and Manufacturing program was on point.
Many years ago, FRC stood out among community colleges because of its wide range of vocational programs. They included Wildlife and Fisheries, Forestry, Watershed, and Vocational Education (AKA Industrial Arts), in addition to their equine program.
Prior to Kevin Trutna’s arrival, the previous president effectively killed all these programs except for Equine Studies and Ranch Management. How did that happen? Every time a faculty member in charge of these Voc Ed programs retired, the president elected not to replace the instructor, hence the programs died.
In the case of Vocational Education, a terrific program developed over the years by Instructor Pete Bartels, we lost courses in woodworking, construction, and welding. And it wasn’t just regular FRC students seeking AA certificates in these areas who took the classes, many adult members of the community enjoyed them as well, particularly woodworking.
When Pete retired, he petitioned the administration to continue the Vocational Education program he’d developed because it effectively served students seeking employment in the trades. I agree with Dr. Saxton that part of the community college mission traditionally has been to train and educate students who want careers in those fields. However, Pete was not replaced, and, sadly, that marked the end of FRC’s Vocational Education program.
If FRC is, indeed, establishing a Welding and Manufacturing program with the help of Sierra Pacific’s grant, I encourage Dr. Trutna to expand all Vocational Education courses at FRC. Hire a full-time instructor and reinstate a full-blown program with an array of courses that will attract students looking to enter the trades, as well as members of the community.