Between September 2016 and August 2017, a projected 29,000 area residents will have enrolled in one or more non-credit workforce training or English as a Second Language (ESL) course at Houston Community College.

That’s headcount, not total enrollment. Enrollment figures are higher than headcount because many students take several courses at a time throughout the year.

College officials are predicting a 3-percent growth in Continuing Education enrollment this year over 2015-2016—at a time when academic or “for-credit” enrollments are declining or flat.

So successful is the HCC School of Continuing Education that the American Association of Community Colleges lists it as the third-largest CE program in the nation behind Miami Dade College and the City University of New York.

And that’s without the personal enrichment and community education non-credit programs that other colleges offer. HCC has 40-plus CE programs that focus primarily on entry-level workforce skills that help people get to work quickly.

“Some of our growth is coming from the college’s recent transformation,” CE Director Kirk White said. “Our college presidents are engaging with the community, hearing what residents and business leaders believe is needed for their areas, then working with the School of Continuing Education to place those programs where they are most needed.”

Plus, HCC is doing its “homework.” The college studies business trends and population demographics in the communities around its six campuses and determines the potential “audiences” a program might have, helping assure its success.

“We are making a concentrated effort to place programs in locations where a documented population has been identified,” White said.

Growth in workforce programs is an indication that the local economy is doing well, White maintains.

“As the economy improves, college credit enrollments typically drop since more people have jobs,” he said. “Workforce CE grows because people are looking for job-related skills and credentials.”

Thanks to the $450 million bond construction program passed by voters in 2014, CE is gaining state-of-the-art facilities on campuses throughout the district.

For example, CE will occupy a portion of a new $12.42 million building dedicated to workforce education at the new Brays Oaks Campus on West Bellfort in Southwest Houston.

Adult Education will occupy the first floor of the 28,268-sq. ft. building. Non-credit healthcare, information technology and business programs with specially-equipped labs will occupy the second story.

 Most notable is a new lab for Phlebotomy Technician training.

“Having GED and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses onsite with CE is a great asset,” White said. “Students will be getting workforce certificates and learning English or earning a GED (high school equivalency) at the same time, which helps them become employable faster.”

Brays Oaks will also feature A+ Certification, NETWORK+ Certification, Microsoft Office Suite Professional, and Property Management courses.

CE will share a new building on the HCC Acres Homes campus in the northeast segment of the college district. Programs include Bilingual Child Development Associate, Paralegal Series, and IC3/Microsoft Office Certification.

Likewise, CE will have added space in a new workforce building on the Stafford Campus for electrical, HVAC, pipefitting, and welding courses.

“These buildings were seriously needed across the district,” the CE director noted. “They provide us much-needed space where we can expand our credit and non-credit programs.”

Expect to see new programs soon such as Drone Technician Training, VM Ware (cloud-based computing), and Telecommunication Technician training.

With non-credit workforce training certificates and certifications (rather than degrees) being requested by business and industry more than ever before, HCC’s advancements in Continuing Education constitute a “mind shift,” White believes.

“We’re finding what training people need for today’s jobs, and we are placing courses in beautiful facilities near where they live or work,” he said. “And it’s paying off for everyone.”