Even in a time of seemingly endless economic gloom, hard times can actually be good times for some professional fields.
Take career education, for instance.
"When times turn downward and people cannot find jobs, they look for training opportunities," said Dr. Arthur Keiser, whose family started Keiser University in 1977. Today, Keiser University and Keiser Career College has about 15,000 students at several locations throughout the state and online.
The school has opened its newest campus, in West Pasco.
It bought the former Higher Level Vocational School, at 6014 U.S. 19, taking over the 13,000-square-foot facility. At the same time Keiser inherited the students who were enrolled in Higher Level’s two programs, licensed practical nursing and ultrasound examining.
Since the takeover Keiser has changed just about everything as they have rebuilt the school to fit the approach that has worked so well for so long.
"Our model is different," Keiser said.
Throughout Keiser’s school Web sites and literature, the two things that are stressed are year-round training and a personal approach with students. Both are vital for a place where a majority of the students are working adults.
According to Keiser, 83 percent of the students at Keiser schools work 33 hours or more, 65 percent have dependents.
"That’s a big challenge for someone who wants to go back to school," he said.
It’s a challenge that more and more people are considering taking up as they find their current careers on ever more shaky ground. And as anyone who’s looked into it knows, health care is one of the career fields most often cited as being "recession-proof."
That’s why the timing made sense for Keiser to move into West Pasco, explained Keiser vice president Jeff Slagle. Unlike some areas, there aren’t multiple colleges and private schools fighting for turf and students.
"There’s such an opening for us," Slagle said. "There’s plenty of students to go around. That’s the neat thing about opening in Pasco."
Since the start of the year 36 new students have enrolled in the LPN and ultrasound classes. Slagle anticipates about that many more when they start new courses in May for emergency medical technician and in medical billing and coding.
Another advantage West Pasco has is that there are more places for students to get there clinical experience, Slagel said. About two-thirds of the LPN training is spent in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other real-life settings in which the students get real-world experience.
It’s important for students to get as wide a variety of experience as possible, Slagle said. Just as there isn’t a glut of schools competing for students, they also aren’t competing for clinical opportunities in the area.
Classroom equipment is constantly updated so that it is "state-of-the-practice," Keiser’s public relations director, Kimberly Dale, said.
"We always make sure we are right where doctors’ offices, rehab centers are, that we have the same kind of equipment they do," Dale said.
The training equipment includes dummies designed to simulate not only the size and weight of real human beings, but in many cases have built-in injuries to treat. Others can be programmed to simulate various breathing conditions. The EMT students will even have a childbirth simulator.
The LPN course takes about a year to complete. Enrollment is throughout the year. Keiser Career College is accredited, and financial aid is available. Those contemplating or actively seeking a career change can get more information by calling 727-847-6855 or visit www.keisercareer.edu. (The Suncoast News)