Front of the Line: LRCC Preparing Grads for Immediate Employment

You go to college. You graduate. You get a job.

It sounds simple, but it’s not. Unless you happen to be enrolled at Lakes Regional Community College in Laconia.

According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, the graduating class of 2016 faced an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent and an underemployment rate of 12.6. Both rates are higher than a decade earlier, when the unemployment rate for college graduates was 5.5 percent and the underemployment rate was 9.6.

Addressing those concerns has always been a priority for LRCC and the solution has led to higher than average job placement for graduates in programs such as Culinary Arts, Fire Science and Automotive Technology.

With classroom instruction from top faculty, state-of-the-art facilities and real world experience through internships with area businesses, graduates from LRCC are positioned to attain good paying jobs in high-demand fields.

For example, there are approximately 400 openings for automotive technicians in the Granite State, according to the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association. LRCC graduates are leading candidates for those positions.

“If you graduate with these skills, you’ll have a job, not just in New Hampshire but anywhere you go in the country,” says Michael Parker, chair of LRCC’s Automotive Technology department.

Driven to Success: LRCC’s Automotive Technology Program

LRCC offers three automotive programs: the Auto Service Education Program (ASEP), the Toyota T-Ten program and the Automotive Technology program.

  • Under the ASEP program, students divide their time between the classroom and paid internships at General Motors dealerships, earning certification as GM automotive technicians.
  • The new partnership with Toyota, which begins this fall, works in a similar fashion. “They graduate with industry credentials, which makes them very valuable. There are all kinds of opportunities,” Parker says.
  • Under the Automotive Technology program, which holds classes at night and on weekends, students can work a full-time job while earning their certificate.

“With the internships, they work with a mentor and can apply what they learn in school to a working environment while getting paid,” Parker says. “That offsets tuition, so our students graduate with very little debt.”

Auto technicians start out, on average, earning about $40,000 per year, but that can quickly escalate. “I have a former student who is making $80,000 after five years, and salaries can go into six figures in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont,” Parker says.

Graduates also go on to become service managers, shop foremen and teachers at the high school and collegiate level.

A Tasty Career: LRCC’s Culinary Art Program

Graduates from the Culinary Arts program are also in demand. Program coordinator Patrick Hall says the program has a 99 percent placement rate.

“I tell my students that if you learn your craft at LRCC, you can travel across the country and you’ll never be without a job,” he says.

Executive chefs average $55,000 to $76,000 per year, while pastry chefs are in a similar range.

A key attribute of the program is the hands on experience students get at The Shaker Table Restaurant, LRCC’s teaching kitchen, which is open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the academic year.

Students learn to prepare stocks, sauces and soups, regional and international dishes, the technique for sautéing, roasting, grilling and braising, and how to manage a fully functioning kitchen. Graduates are hired for positions from entry-level to sous-chef in larger restaurants and as culinary cooks in smaller establishments.

“We teach students everything from how to make knife cuts and cheeses, to baking and cooking every kind of cuisine,” Hall says. “If you went directly into the industry you would never learn all of this.”

New to LRCC is the Brewing and Fermentation certificate, where students learn the art of making beer, wine, mead and cider. With more than 50 breweries in New Hampshire, students work one-year internships at a local establishment on the way to becoming brew masters.

The combination of a Culinary Arts degree with a Brewing and Fermentation certificate is opening new doors for LRCC graduates. “It really gives them unique qualifications,” Hall says.

At Your Service: The Hospitality Program at LRCC

Meeting another industry need, a degree program in Hospitality is being reintroduced in the fall following a decade’s absence.

“It’s due to a really large demand from industry partners who are struggling to find qualified workers,” said Carlene Rose, department chair of Business Accounting, Office Technology, Management Program and Culinary Arts.

Classes will be offered in hospitality management, sanitation and safety, hotel and lodging operations, food and beverage management, hospitality marketing, grounds maintenance, and budgeting and finance for hotels and restaurants. Additionally, students will log co-op jobs totaling 500 hours over two years.

“We have partnered with the larger hotels in the White Mountains, with small bed and breakfasts, with inns, the Steele Hill Resort and the Common Man family of restaurants,” Rose said. “They’re all very eager to help out and pay the interns.”

With a Hospitality degree, students will be equipped for careers in hotel and restaurant management, where salaries range from $50,000 to $70,000.

Fanning the Flames of Success: LRCC’s Fire Science Program

With a Fire Science degree, students qualify for positions in firefighting with an average starting salary around $45,000 (following a one-year probation period). With overtime, most firefighters earn in the $65,000-$75,000 range. Although positions in fire science are open to high school graduates, the intense competition for jobs has made a fire science degree from LRCC increasingly important.

“In most cases, they will select the kid with the college education,” said John Connell, chair of the Fire Technology department. “Many of the students get hired by local departments because the fire chief has a degree from LRCC.”

Approximately half the students live at local fire houses while attending classes, and then work as per diem firefighters during the summer. Other students gain experience with their hometown fire departments.

Connell notes that beyond their great reputation, the longevity of faculty, opportunities for growth, as well as going above and beyond the objectives for a deeper knowledge makes this program stand out.