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Filling the gap before the middle-skills gap 

People in the Rochester region need jobs. Employers in the Rochester region need middle-skills workers. Yet thousands of machinist, lab technician, and dental assistant positions — to name a few — go unfilled because employers say they can't find people with the right education and training.

Monroe Community College's accelerated certificate programs are an attempt to get people into those jobs — quickly. But the school has trouble filling the courses, even if all expenses are paid and students are guaranteed a job at the end.

MCC is trying to do something about that by offering a new, 10-week "bridge" program to help prepare students for enrollment in one its accelerated certificate programs, such as precision tooling.

"It'll be targeted to city residents first — trying to get them into the pipeline for getting into one of our programs," says Ross Micali, program manager for MCC Corporate College, which offers professional development and training for Monroe County residents and businesses.

The new program will instruct students in basic math and English to help them get ready for the Accuplacer test, an exam that assesses students' skills. Almost all prospective MCC students are required to take it.

You must have a high school or equivalency diploma to participate in the new program.

The goal is to enroll 15 people in the course, Micali says, which will run five hours a day, four days a week. MCC is working with Baden Street Settlement House, Ibero-American Action League, and the Veterans Outreach Center to find students for the new program.

MCC Foundation, the college's fund-raising arm, received a grant from JPMorgan Chase to pay for the program, which will cover the cost of enrollment, books, and fees. There is no cost to students.

The location of the course as well as the dates it will be offered have not yet been settled, Micali says.

The accelerated programs are designed to respond to the needs of the regional workforce, Micali says, which has a much-discussed shortage of middle-skills workers. Middle-skills jobs generally require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.

Micali says that he expects middle-skills vacancies in the region to grow, at least in the short term, because more people are retiring than are entering this segment of the job market.

Micali says he's not sure why enrollment lags in MCC's accelerated programs other than that the intensity of the abbreviated courses might be too much for some people. The precision tooling class, for example, was shortened from two, 15-week semesters to two, 11-week semesters. Classes are six hours a day, Monday to Thursday, and four hours on Friday.

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