Last week, the presidents of Coconino Community College, Northern Arizona University, Dine’ College and Navajo Technical University made it official — after months of working behind the scenes, the four higher education facilities are planning to work together.
The final details have not been decided, but if things go as planned, new and exciting educational opportunities will soon be available at the Page campus of CCC. No one knows for sure what those opportunities will be, but during the discussions leading up to the signing ceremony, several plans were openly discussed.
One that could be big for Page is hospitality classes using both CCC and the Quality Inn as classrooms. Students can take classes on things such as running a hotel, customer service, even laundry and cleaning rooms and then put those lessons to work in real life by working at the Quality Inn.
The Quality Inn offers unique opportunities because it is owned by the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Nation has expressed a willingness to work with CCC to give students a hands-on lesson.
Lena Fowler, District 5 county supervisor, spearheaded the effort to get the memorandum of understanding signed last week. She said the Quality Inn offers a great opportunity to educate students.
“This is actually the first phase,” Fowler said. “Our vision is to turn the Quality Inn into a complete hospitality, cultural arts education center.”
In Fowler’s vision, one day the students will run every aspect of the hotel. While they would get paid, it would benefit the Navajo Nation because they would not have to search for employees. When they graduate, either with a degree or a certificate, the students will be prepared to embark on their own careers, hopefully at one of the hotels, motels or resorts in Page.
Another possibility that has been openly discussed has been working with local businesses to offer classes for marine mechanics.
In Page, there is a constant need for marine mechanics. Simply put, there are more job openings than there are qualified people to take them. So if the colleges can work together and offer classes to teach and certify students, they could immediately find jobs that pay well and usually offer benefits.
And that would be just the beginning. For traditional students, they can take entry level courses through CCC and move on to higher level courses through either of the other three institutions. In theory, they could even earn a master’s degree, all at the Page campus.
While that will benefit some students, maybe even some of my employees here at the Chronicle, the real benefit from my viewpoint is the ability to adjust quickly to meet the needs of local students.
Community colleges such as CCC have the ability to offer courses designed to meet the needs of the community, even if those courses don’t offer degrees. In this partnership, students may benefit from teachers at Navajo Tech, who already teach hospitality courses, but instead of taking a two or four-year program, they might get a certificate that puts them to work in six months.
Local businesses will benefit because those students will be trained and ready to contribute from day one.
When NGS does eventually close, the current employees could take courses to teach them new job skills, whether it’s related to tourism or maybe training on running solar farms, whatever skill is needed.
Experts already in place at NAU or Dine’ College could teach the courses, some in person, some via computers, and in a short time, the students would be ready to embark on a new career.
The devil is in the details, and the details are still being worked out. But the possibilities are almost endless.
Now we just wait and hope.