(Photo courtesy Pueblo Community College.)

An innovative mobile learning lab program has earned Pueblo Community College recognition as a finalist for a national Community College Futures Assembly Bellwether Award.

The college is one of 10 finalists for the award, which recognizes cutting-edge, trend-setting programs that other colleges might find worth replicating.

The mobile learning labs deliver workforce training in a wide range of advanced manufacturing skills via portable classrooms housed in 48-foot trailers. The trailers contain multimedia instructor stations and specialized equipment that enable interactive presentations and customized, hands-on training.

“We had a lot of employers in the area who had a need for flexible, convenient training,” said Amanda Corum, executive director of Pueblo Corporate College, a special branch of Pueblo Community College that interacts with local businesses.

The program began 10 years ago with a single trailer, which was built after the college received funds from a state grant. The fleet has now grown to seven mobile labs, with another one under construction.

The mobile labs allow employers to offer training for specific operations without interrupting production schedules or requiring employees to travel elsewhere. The labs are particularly useful for middle-skill jobs that require some post-secondary education but less than a four-year degree.

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“We elected to do these because we felt we could do a much better trainer than what was available out there on the market,” said Shawn Ahlers, lab build coordinator. “One of the things we’re very proud of is these trainers have the capability of introducing faults into the system so that the students can learn troubleshooting methodology, which is very important in this day and age to keep downtime to a minimum.”

The labs have been deployed in eight Colorado counties and in Utah and New Mexico.

EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel Mill is one of the many employers that have utilized the program.

“We provided training for an apprenticeship program” at the mill, Corum said. “We had three of the mobile labs onsite at one point, training about 30 employees of the industrial maintenance staff in welding, electrical and mechanical systems, and machining.”

Through Pueblo Corporate College, businesses can receive customized professional and technical training, delivered either at company facilities or at one of the campuses of Pueblo Community College or Southwest Colorado Community College.

The programs help client businesses meet strategic goals and improve individual, team and organizational performance.

The Corporate College has its own catalog and includes courses in specific technical areas such as construction, electricity, oil and gas, and Security+, as well as training programs in computer skills, effective communication, team building and problem solving.

Grants that cover some of the costs of training are available for some programs.

Pueblo Community College was chosen as a finalist for the Bellwether Award from more than 1,000 applicants across the United States.

“The Bellwether Award has been compared to football’s Heisman Trophy because it is competitively judged and is an award given by our peers in community colleges,” PCC President Patty Erjavec said. “To be recognized for our innovation and commitment to academic excellence speaks volumes about the quality of our program.”

The college was nominated in the workforce development category, one of three in which awards are presented.

Representatives from PCC will give a presentation on how the mobile labs address the challenges of adult learners on Jan. 29 in Orlando, Fla. Winners will be announced Jan. 30.

“We’re excited to represent PCC and the southern Colorado region in this category,” said Jennifer Sherman, PCC’s dean of business and advanced technology. “As our impact and reach have expanded with mobile lab instruction, we look forward to sharing our best practices.”

To learn more about customized mobile learning lab training, business can contact Pueblo Corporate College at 719-549-3320.