Farmers Targeted In Fund Request

College Would Use State Money For Technology Training

April 25, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Carroll Community College is competing for part of the $3 million that Gov. Parris N. Glendening has set aside to promote technology training for employees in private businesses.

Because the business that drives Carroll County is agriculture, the college is focusing its grant proposal on serving farmers, said Karen Merkle, vice president for extended learning and innovative technology at CCC.

The college is developing the application with community colleges in Howard, Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties, and the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

The partnership would pool resources to offer training for farmers and related small businesses, Merkle said.

For example, Howard Community College has a strong program in international business, which could be made available to farmers in all five counties who are interested in importing or exporting, Merkle said.

Although the grant is for "advanced technology centers," Carroll's application doesn't involve a new building. The amount proposed probably will be about $300,000, which would cover technology consultants, equipment and a director to coordinate the effort, Merkle said.

"In a way, it's a virtual center," Merkle said. "We're not talking about bricks and mortar or one service location. It might be provided at a college; it could be in the fields; it could be at a business."

It could even be in a farmer's home at 4 a.m., through 24-hour Internet and home-page links through which farmers can gain access to information and take online courses, she said.

Much of the training also could be done through videos. Carroll has classrooms with video links that can download courses from other colleges and universities. In some cases, the video link is interactive -- the teacher is in one location, the student in another, each viewing the other on a video screen and communicating through a phone link and faxes.

Carroll has provided training to local businesses in the past and will continue to do so even if it doesn't get the new grant, Merkle said.

But the grant would make more training available and make it more convenient for farmers.

The state initiative is in its second year. Last year, the state put up $2 million to launch four advanced technology centers at community colleges on the Eastern Shore, in Baltimore and in Southern Maryland.

"It's seed money to enhance the capacity of the colleges to be partners in economic development by meeting the work-force development needs of Maryland businesses," said Carolyn Hock, who coordinates the program for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

The state money is just a start. The four centers also received $10.7 million from businesses and federal and local governments to train their workers in such fields as aquaculture and aerospace technology.

Merkle said the five counties and the extension service are working with farmers to determine how much they would use the service and what fees the college would charge to supplement the grant money.

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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