Skilled trades building could help recruit students


Courtesy of AACC Department of Strategic Communications

The Clauson Center for Innovation and Skilled Trades will open in January. Shown, an artist’s rendering of the finished building, which is still under construction

Dominic Salacki, Editor-in-Chief

AACC officials said Tuesday the construction of a building for skilled trades classes could help increase student enrollment.

The Clauson Center for Innovation and Skilled Trades will open on the Arnold campus in late January.

“The first step in recruiting students is to develop and offer training programs that lead to high-demand jobs, are connected to employment and/or a registered apprenticeship and provide for advancement along a clear career pathway,” Kip Kunsman, dean of the School of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, said at an AACC Board of Trustees meeting this week.

Like at colleges around the country, enrollment at AACC has declined since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to Dean Kip Kunsman of the School of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, the college will try to recruit students by spreading the word about the new building and by reaching out to Anne Arundel County businesses that hire employees with skills like carpentry, plumbing and welding.

A two-year-old advisory committee has recommended that the college offer three kinds of programs for students interested in taking skilled trades classes, including direct-to-career, pre-apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships.

Kunsman said direct-to-career programs involve short-term training that leads to jobs. Pre-apprenticeships allow students to test their abilities and learn foundational skills that will help them move into formal registered apprenticeships. Registered apprenticeships are formal arrangements with employers and are regulated by the Maryland Apprenticeship Training Council.

The college’s Office of Strategic Communication is helping recruit students for Clauson Center courses with a marketing campaign involving print, radio and digital advertising with taglines like “dirt,” “sweat,” “grit,” “be unstoppable” and “learn a trade.”

So far, the digital campaign has clocked nearly 26,000 website clicks and more than 884,000 video views, Kunsman told the trustees.

Examples of the Clauson Center’s marketing campaign’s strategies, Kunsman said, are digital ads, car wraps, information cards passed out to rideshare users and information sessions with employers and national trade organizations.

Coupled with Strategic Communication’s efforts to help with recruiting of students of all majors, the college is creating a pipeline of students for the Clauson Center, Kunsman said.

“It is amazing to see that hard work, [which] starts now, in the future will pay off a lot because that really attracts employers” Dr. Irene Zoppi Rodriguez, a trustee, said. “At the same time, [it] brings the promotion of career management in the right perspective.”

College officials will dedicate the building at a Dec. 16 ceremony.