Photo caption: JMZ President Tenée Casaccio outlines the process of the viability study for North Country Community College’s proposed School of Applied Technology.
Saranac Lake – Members of an advisory board that will guide the viability study for North Country Community College’s proposed School of Applied Technology met for the first time on Aug. 23.
Representatives of workforce development agencies, chambers of commerce, BOCES programs and local elected officials — along with NCCC faculty, staff and administration — shared their recommendations and ideas with JMZ Architects and Planners of Glens Falls, the consulting firm the college has hired to complete the trade school study.
JMZ started work in July. It has assembled a team of professionals in community college program feasibility to provide an independent analysis of the viability of a proposed School of Applied Technology in Ticonderoga, using research from a 2016 feasibility study that was refined over the past year by the college and the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance.
“There is no foregone conclusion,” JMZ President Tenée Casaccio told the group. “There’s hard work ahead of us. We’ll identify the challenges. We’ll suggest ways to mitigate those challenges. We’ll make recommendations. But ultimately the decision about moving the School of Applied Technology rests with you, not with the consulting team.”
The Advisory Board will largely serve as a sounding board for JMZ, Casaccio said.
“You’ll receive information from us and tell us what your thoughts are,” she said. “We’re leveraging the collective knowledge of everyone involved so that together we’ll be much stronger than the consulting team would be on its own.”
The Advisory Board includes four councils with different areas of focus: curriculum, recruitment and employment, business plan, and fundraising. A separate oversight committee will be responsible for coordinating the work among the councils, vetting JMZ’s findings and maintaining the project’s schedule.
Casaccio asked Advisory Board members how they will determine whether the study has been successful. Some said it needs to determine if the project will be financially viable, and if there will be jobs to sustain the proposed programs. Questions were also asked about where to recruit potential students. Several members suggested the proposed School of Applied Technology should target non-traditional students who may have given up on the idea of going or returning to college.
“There’s a lot of kids today that end up going to college and stay for one semester or one year, then drop out and just get a job,” said Jeff Keefer, a retired Fortune 500 business consultant who lives in Hague. “If we can attract those non-traditional students and bring them back into a technical school like this, and show them the value of it, I think that’s very important from a recruiting standpoint. We have to reach out to the community and let those people know there’s a great chance to better themselves with a program like this.”
Involving more employers on the Advisory Board, and beginning a dialogue with the college’s faculty earlier in the study process were also recommended.
Donna Wotton, executive director of the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance, said the study needs to clearly determine what the obstacles to a proposed trade school are.
“I want to know where we can fail, so we can really address those issues and put strategies in place to mitigate those risks,” she said. “Don’t sugarcoat it. Tells us where the challenges are.”
“The board, the faculty, the entire community needs a study that gives them sufficient information so they can make the best possible informed decision,” said Steve Reed, chairman of NCCC’s Board of Trustees.
“I have to echo what one faculty member stated as a potential measure of success of the viability study and an outcome of the work JMZ will complete,” remarked Steve Tyrell, NCCC President. “JMZ’s work should bring the ongoing debate to an end on whether the College should move forward with offering these proposed academic programs.”
JMZ will conduct its analysis through the fall. The Advisory Board will provide initial feedback to JMZ in October, after which JMZ will release its draft recommendations. The consulting firm’s final report and recommendations are expected to be issued by late November.
About North Country Community College: As the only public college located in the Adirondack Park, North Country Community College provides educational, cultural and recreational programming to a 3,500 square mile service area with a population of 90,000. The college maintains three campuses in Saranac Lake, Malone and Ticonderoga, New York; an extensive high school-based academic partnership; and online course offerings. North Country Community College is part of the SUNY (State University of New York) system. With 64 unique colleges and universities, SUNY provides learning environments for every type of student, every stage of life, and every kind of passion. For more information, visit www.nccc.edu.