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Western Nevada College's New President Talks Workforce Development

We're looking at colleges and universities across the region, and what they're looking for ahead of the 2019 legislative session. 

Western Nevada College in Carson City got a new president over the summer in Vincent Solis.

“I think that a small college in a rural setting was really important to me," he told KNPR's State of Nevada, "I wanted to be out West. I had been eyeing the West for a long time and this opportunity came up.” 

Western Nevada College services about 3,300 students with the main campus located in Carson City but smaller satellite campuses in other communities including Fallon.

Solis said there is a mix of traditional students who are looking to transfer to a four-year institution and students who are already working but looking to learn a new skill for their career.

“We’ve got a little bit of something for everybody here in Western Nevada College,” he said.

One of the programs that is growing quickly and changing rapidly is skilled manufacturing. Solis said the college partners with industry to know what skills they need an employee to have and then provide that training.

“It’s a mix of being innovative and responsive to the needs of the community but also having really good partnerships with those industry colleagues that can let us know what their needs are going to be moving into tomorrow,” Solis said.

Manufacturing jobs are plentiful and pay well, plus, people can take the classes required quickly and be ready to get a job often in just a few months.

It is that ability to respond to the needs of students and industry that make community colleges an important part of the educational landscape in Nevada, Solis said.

An industry can call his community college and explain what skills they need for new jobs that will need to be filled and they can put together a program quickly.

“We can mobilize very quickly to offer those kinds of customized trainings and services and educational opportunities for their employees much quicker than larger institutions can just simply because of how community colleges are set up to respond to community and industry needs,” he said.

With the legislative session coming up in a few months, Solis said he hopes Nevada's System of Higher Education gets more resources so it can help more students access higher education. 

He would like to focus on improving enrollment but students need to be able to pay for college. 

“The big one for us is going to be to focus first and foremost on our enrollment and our outreach to make sure that the goals that we have as a campus and as a system throughout Nevada is access," he said.

The second goal for Solis is improving completion and graduation rates for his students.

Vincent Solis, president, Western Nevada College

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)