Land of (job) opportunity


Jeremiah Kilgore, an instructor of 2007 Excel Level 1, works on a lesson with his class at New Horizons computer training facility in Town Center.

Erica Brough/ Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 9:56 p.m.

City College's move to the old Circuit City building completes what has become a new job training campus in west Gainesville, joining New Horizons Computer Learning Center and The Salon Professional Academy in the Tower Center.

City College moved from its location on Southwest 13th Street last week to reopen in time for the start of the spring semester Monday.

The move also fills another space abandoned by a struggling retailer with an operation training people for jobs that are relatively in demand.

The Salon Professional Academy moved from a temporary location to the former Crafts & Stuff in June 2007 and New Horizons moved from Plaza Royale on Newberry Road to the old Home Showcase last August.

An Enterprise Rent-a-Car customer service call center moved into the old Winn-Dixie last year.

Steve Schwab, City College's Gainesville campus director, said the job training cluster formed coincidentally, but the three schools could benefit from the combined student traffic.

"People looking to choose a career can stand in the parking lot and choose EMT, beauty or IT," said Tim Broom, New Horizons' Gainesville owner.

The new City College location has more than double the space at 21,300 square feet, allowing the school to add students and programs at a time when more people are returning to school for new job skills.

While the old building could handle about 500 students, the school is taking another 100 students starting next week on top of the 495 already enrolled, said Steve Schwab, campus director.

City College caters its course offerings to meet employer demands, with its largest program training medical assistants, billers and coders for Gainesville's sizable health-care industry, he said.

They were able to place about 90 percent of graduates during the last quarter, said Zag Zagaiski, placement director.

The school also offers diplomas, associate's or bachelor's degrees in legal assisting and business.

With the added space, they will be adding associates programs as soon as accreditation is approved, including Emergency Medical Services, and Criminal Justice for those interested in law enforcement, security or corrections fields.

New Horizons and Salon Professional Academy officials say their students are also able to find work in this economy.

Tim Broom of New Horizons said information technology positions are always among the top on lists of fastest growing or most in-demand. He referred to a CareerBuilder.com list with network systems analysts No. 1 and computer software engineers No. 2 based on projected job growth and salary.

"It's less susceptible to hirings and firings," he said. "Every industry you have, they need IT. Everybody has computers."

Students who complete Microsoft or Cisco certifications are getting jobs, Broom said, adding that graduates have an 85 percent job placement rate.

The school has provided more training funded by federal stimulus funds that tends to be for entry level workers, he said.

The school handles about 150 students at a time. While interest is up from people wanting computer training, Broom said overall enrollment is flat because of tighter restrictions from lenders on student loans.

A partnership with City College could change that. The two schools are in talks for New Horizons to provide IT courses to City College students who would be eligible for financial assistance.

The Salon Professional Academy trains 65 to 80 students at a time toward cosmetology, skin care or nail care licenses in a curriculum endorsed by the Redken product line, with classroom time and salon services offered by students at reduced rates.

The beauty industry is considered recession-proof, said owner Joni Jarrell, because people still want to feel good about themselves.

Customers may cut back by going to a less expensive place for a couple months, "but they don't appreciate the service as much so they end up coming back."

She said the academy also has a high placement rate, with salons seeking referrals or graduates going into business for themselves.

"It's a huge self-employment industry," she said.

The academy hears from people who lost other jobs and are taking the opportunity to do something they always wanted to do, Jarrell said.

Like New Horizons, she said tighter loan standards have held down enrollment. But the school was recently accredited for Title IV federal financial aid and will be able to accept Bright Futures scholarships in July, while already accepting prepaid college plans and veterans loans.

City College will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. April 23, with tours that will include new labs, an ambulance simulator and mock courtroom from 5:35 p.m. to 7 p.m. New Horizons and The Salon Professional Academy are holding open houses at the same time.

Contact Anthony Clark at 374-5094 or anthony.clark@gvillesun.com.

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