With demand doubling, Northark Berryville seeking more teachers
BERRYVILLE -- With more and more people going back to school to strengthen their skills and improve their 'employability,' enrollment has risen and course offerings have expanded at the North Arkansas College campus in Berryville.
Instructors are needed to keep up with demand, said Shelly McCall, director of NorthArk's Carroll County Center, located in Bobcat Plaza.
"We're doubling our number of classes," she said, "and we need part-time instructors. The students are needing the classes.
"I think this has a lot to do with the economy," she said. "With all the layoffs, people realize they need to be more competitive -- not just the young, but older students who have returned to improve their skills, to make themselves marketable.
"It's not Grandpa's world anymore. Even if you are a farmer, you have to have computer skills."
McCall says there is a direct correlation between the time a person puts into his education and what he earns.
According to information from the U.S. Department of Commerce, an American worker can expect to earn $19,000 as a high school dropout, $26,200 with a high school diploma, $52,300 with a master's degree, and $70,700 with a doctoral degree.
"All of us are experiencing the impact of the current economic implosion to some extent," McCall said. "Cut backs are being made at every level, from families trying to manage on tighter budgets and companies downsizing.
"However, there is one area where we simply cannot afford to cut corners in this economy -- and that is on education."
McCall said employers are coming to her to find workers. "They are asking me to post jobs," she said. "They want people with some college, but not necessarily degrees.
"We've had a lot of local employers come in, such as banks and retail outlets wanting employees from the college student pool."
To that end, McCall said she has put up a "job listing" board for both students and employers.
Community computer lab
In addition, she has established a community computer lab that is open to the public on Friday afternoons at no charge.
"It's for those wanting to do job searches," she said. "There will always be someone in the lab to steer them in the right direction."
According to McCall, there are three "recession-proof" careers: education, law enforcement and medical, all fields where the more you learn, the more you earn. "It's simple!" she said.
At the Carroll County Center, students can take basic first year classes. All are credit classes that are guaranteed transferrable "when working through a NorthArk counselor," she said.
The cost per class runs about $350, she said, but many students qualify for financial aid.
"I'd say more than 60 percent qualify," she said. "There is a lot of financial aid out there, especially with the new scholarship lottery and the whole stimulus package. There is more money in education now.
"You can make quite a bit and still qualify for aid," said McCall. "Don't let money be a factor. The return on the investment is well worth the time and money you put into your education.
"The truth is," she continued, "a college or trained technical or occupational education has never been more crucial. In the competitive marketplace we're experiencing, those with the best skills and top credentials will still be able to carve out a living and a place in the market."
McCall said one of the most consistent comments she hears is about the convenience of having a college campus in Berryville.
"So many say it is really, really nice to have a center here, where they can take classes -- on their lunch break, or before or after work."
One of those students is Gayle Money, circulation manager at Carroll County Newspapers in Berryville.
"I work full time, I'm the mother of two, my husband works two jobs, and I started back to school in August," said Money. "I'm after a business degree with an accounting emphasis. I taking one Web class, Intro to Business, and one at the Berryville campus, Intermediate Algebra."
Money said she attended NorthArk in Harrison after graduating from high school, but put her education on the back burner for a number of years.
"I didn't even consider going back until they opened the satellite campus in Berryville," she said. "I couldn't have done it otherwise because there is no time to drive to Harrison."
Support from her employer and co-workers has also played a big part in her successful comeback, Money said.
"I have an accommodating employer who lets me take an early lunch to go to class, and if I need to take off to take a test, they are very willing to let me go. In fact, all my co-workers pitch in to cover for me, even when we're short-handed."
Money said she was actually encouraged to go back to school when inquiring about corporate assistance that's available.
"Instead, I was able to get a Pell grant that pays for all my books, classes and supplies -- and, that's with my husband and myself both working,' she said.
Besides the convenience of having a college campus close to home and work, Money said the college staff is accommodating, allowing her to take her Web class tests in Berryville, instead of driving to Harrison, and arranging to bring in new courses to meet her requirements.
"Next, I'll need business math and accounting principles, and they will try to get those for me," she said.
Course offerings currently include: Introduction to Business, Introduction to Information Technology, Spreadsheet, English Composition II, Beginning Spanish II, United States History II, Intermediate Algebra, Human Relations, Music Appreciation, General Psychology, and Fundamentals of Oral Communications.
"We're still adding," said McCall. "I'm always asking 'what classes do you need' and adding them, such as Gayle's request."
McCall went on to say that while educational opportunities are important, along with job postings and a community computer lab, the need for instructors is paramount to make it all work.
She said enrollment is up 17 percent college-wide at all NorthArk campuses and more instructors are essential to meet student growth.
"We are looking for part-time instructors with a master's degree and 18 credit hours in the field they will teach," she said.
Anyone interested can go to the Web site, www.northark.edu, and fill out the on-line application.
Those who are interested in improving their earnings by "learning more and earning more" can also visit the Web site, or talk to McCall.
She can be reached at (870) 423-4455, or her direct line is 423-6371.
"Education is still our best hope," she said, "and in our lifetimes, most of us have never been in a situation where hope was so desperately needed.
"Remember, this is not Grandpa's world -- today's jobs require a higher level of skill."