A new degree program at Mid-State Technical College, or MSTC, is designed to address the need to provide services for an aging population in central Wisconsin.

The college has begun offering a two-year associate degree program in gerontology, the study of the physical, mental and social changes in seniors as they age. The program is available only at the Stevens Point campus.

Beth Smith, associate dean of MSTC’s Service and Health Division, said the program was in development for a few years before receiving final approval by the Wisconsin Technical College System board back in March; it is only one of two in the state. Smith said MSTC was a good choice for the program because of the demographics of the region.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates that around 17.7 percent of the population in Wood County was 65 years old and over in 2012; 15 percent were older than 65 in Marathon County and 13.7 percent in Portage County.

“We had to show that a program like this would have strong enough interest here, and that there would be jobs in the community for our graduates,” Smith said. “The population is aging, particularly at the local level, and that population will need people who can provide services to them.”

Smith said graduates from the program could serve as activity directors at senior living centers, as lobbyists or advocates for the elderly or could work at aging and disability resource centers. The Wisconsin Technical College System estimates the annual salary for a graduate of the gerontology program at $27,940.

Sarah Gray is one of three activities directors at Harmony of Stevens Point, an assisted living facility at 1800 Bluebell Lane. After being laid off from Sentry Insurance about five years ago, Gray opted to go back to school and get into the health care industry. After earning a degree in business administration from MSTC, she worked for Aurora Community Services for two years, managing an adult family home, before joining Harmony a year ago.

“I was one of those people who never thought I would be working at a place like this, that I was happy behind a desk,” said Gray, 26, of Stevens Point. “After I got laid off, when I looked at what was out there, this profession was a great option. There were a lot of jobs out there, and I found that I enjoyed working with people.”

Smith said the program now has 11 students, and around 27 students are taking general education courses and will be able to enroll at a later date.

“That’s definitely a stronger number than we were expecting, but I think it shows the interest there is in this field,” Smith said.

Sheila Bluhm is the primary instructor for the gerontology program, and helped Smith in getting it approved. Bluhm is teaching the first course in the program, introduction to social gerontology, which will cover several issues related to aging — family relationships, social support, retirement, poverty and politics.

“It’s meant to provide a foundation that we can build on throughout the program,” Bluhm said. “It was exciting to get this program put together, because we feel like this will have a real impact locally.”



From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Column: New programs coming to MSTC” — By Dr. Sue Budjac, president of Midstate Technical College

Sue Budjac

 Sue Budjac

August marks the start of Mid-State Technical College’s fall semester. Our hallways, classrooms and labs soon will be full of students eager to develop the skills they need to succeed in the local workforce. I extend an enthusiastic welcome to all of our new and returning students.

MSTC continuously evaluates our range of career programs and certificates to ensure our college is meeting the demands of local business and industry. This proactive approach provides MSTC with the necessary information to make changes and add new offerings as emerging workforce needs are identified.

Before a program is approved, MSTC interviews a variety of stakeholders to establish essential skills and knowledge. We also confirm the readiness of local employers to hire our graduates. Additionally, each MSTC program taps into industry experts through an advisory committee of local employers and employees; their valued feedback is one of many catalysts that sustain high quality and innovation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of social/human service assistants is expected to grow 28 percent from 2010-20, faster than average for all occupations. MSTC addressed this rapidly growing need with a new Gerontology Associate Degree at our Stevens Point Campus that provides students with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience necessary to enter the job market or enhance their existing careers.

MSTC also will offer three new technical diplomas and certificates this year. The Stainless Steel Welding Basics, or GTAW, Certificate is offered at our Marshfield Campus in a new state-of-the-art stainless steel welding lab. The Taxation Accounting Certificate helps students become familiar with rules and law and experience practical application through hands-on learning, and will be available at all MSTC locations. Barber Technologist Technical Diploma classes are offered two nights a week at our Wisconsin Rapids Campus with supplemental work online. Students perfect their skills in our on-campus salon that is open to the public.

Our responsiveness to industry needs ensures that our career programs and certificates remain relevant to changing workforce needs. Constant assessment through advisory committees ensures that curriculum remains up to date and our classes and programs produce the hands-on skills and real-world knowledge employers desire in the people they hire. Our graduates subsequently have the tools they need to succeed.

With more than 100 associate degrees, technical diplomas and certificates to choose from, MSTC has something for nearly every career passion and unique interest. Simply visitwww.mstc.edu/application to apply or pick up an application at your nearest MSTC campus office. Fall semester starts Aug. 19, and there is still time to register. For more information, call us at 888-575-MSTC or stop by the MSTC location nearest you.

From voiceofwr.com: “MSTC Quick Start Learning classes set for winter and spring” — Want to train for a new career?  Need to advance your skills in your current career?  Mid-State Technical College’s new Quick Start Learning classes are an easy solution for people on the go.

Quick Start Learning classes are ideal for the busy lives of local businesses and their employees.  These short-term classes don’t follow traditional semester schedules.  Convenient start dates offer more flexibility and choices in what, when, and where students can learn.  Evening and online classes accommodate those who are unable to attend daytime classes.

Class options include topics like fire training, first aid/CPR/AED, gerontology, hazardous materials, hydraulics, leadership, medical terminology, Microsoft Office, nursing assistant acute care, phlebotomy, quality management, and Spanish.  View classes in these and many other fields at http://www.mstc.edu/quickstartlearning.

Additional classes are added often.  Class offerings are subject to demand and provided on a first come, first served basis.  For more information, contact an MSTC Career Coach at 1-888-575-MSTC or stop by an MSTC Campus Office.  Individuals previously enrolled at MSTC can register online through MyMSTC.

From wsau.com: “MSTC looks at degree for aging population” — Mid-State Technical College is looking at adding a new degree that would train students to work with a growing elderly population.

The college’s board of directors approved a scope proposal Monday night. The vote clears the way for college officials to continue exploring the gerontology associate degree program.

The state technical college board could approve the degree next month.

The school has begun to survey potential employers to see whether the need exists for students with such a degree. The survey will likely be done by mid-May and the college could launch its program early next year, if the need exists.

Wisconsin’s senior population – those 65 and older – grew by more than 10 percent in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census counted 777,000 senior citizens in Wisconsin in 2010 or just under 14 percent of the state’s population.

Students who take the program will learn how to provide recreation, housing, social services, financial assistance and advocacy for the elderly, said associate dean for service and health programs Beth Smith.

“The person who has earned this degree will have a broad range of skills that will allow them to provide those services,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Mid-State would be only the second technical college in the state to offer such a degree. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College began offering its degree last fall.

Hear interview from wsau.com

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