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A-B Tech chief tells of school’s success, bright future prospects
Thursday, 21 July 2022 13:57

From Staff Reports

Lessons learned by the Asheville area’s community college during the COVID-19 pandemic and the school’s bright future prospects were reviewed by Dr. John Gossett, president of A-B Tech, during the July 8 meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center.

CIBO had promoted Gossett’s talk in advance to its members by noting, “Hear about how A-B Tech has come out of the pandemic. What are its most popular programs? How it is  helping local employers? What’s the future look like at A-B Tech?”

Gossett began his talk by asserting, “I will say the pandemic affected us — and I think we did an adequate job in getting back during the pandemic. Our numbers were lower than state and local. 

“Among my first questions upon arrival (as the school’s new president in July 2020), was: ‘What are we doing to keep our people safe?’ After I was briefed, I said, ‘Perfect! I have nothing to add!’”

Then, he said, “We (A-B Tech) got back (to class) as quickly as we could. We learned pretty quickly that distance learning doesn’t work well in some cases.

“What we learned and did well, we kept. What we learned and struggled with, we jettisoned.

“We began either with seated classes or online classes. Now, we also offer hybrid classes, where students can either attend ‘live’ or ‘Zoom in,’ if they have that technology, or it’s taped, they can view it later at their convenience.”

What’s more, Gossett said, “During the pandemic and afterward, the universities (in the U.S.) gained students, while community colleges lost students...

“We lost about 8 percent of our headcount” during the pandemic. “Nationwide, some (community colleges) lost about 30 percent of their student body. We’re starting to bounce back. We’re starting to see” enrollment increases in some programs.

Speaking more generally, he said, “The days of going to school when you’re 18 and finishing at 21 are going away. We’re seeing people want lifelong opportunities.

“Hopefully, when our students leave us, and with whatever they leave us with, it is adding to their toolbox” of job skills.

Rhetorically, he asked, “What are we doing at A-B Tech? We’re hearing clearly (from the business sector)  that ‘We need truck-drivers.’ We (now) offer CDLs,” so that students can learn those skills and get jobs driving trucks. “People can go from knocking on the door (to earn a CDL) to making six figures (in salaries) within six months.

“We’re also working with MAHEC (Mountain Area Health Education Center) on a cardiovascular stenography training” program.

“We’re also working with Mission (Hospital) to expand our ability to train nurses....”

At that point, Gossett triggered some laughter from the crowd when he joked, “Giving a community college president a microphone is a dangerous thing….”

More seriously, he asked, rhetorically, “What does A-B Tech bring to the community?”

He answered his own question by stating, “Pretty much everything from basic skills, short-term training, associate degrees, customized training — we can do it all.”

A-B Tech provides a “$406 million impact on the community, based on a $60 million budget,” Gossett said. “We add value to the community. That’s what I want you to remember. We are your community’s college.

“How many of you have been on our campus as a family, or as a guest?“ Gossett asked. All hands were raised in response. He then asked, “When are you coming back?”



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