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Expanded job training in Okeechobee has taken a major step forward with the new  Multi-Functional Industrial Laboratory at the Indian River State College Dixon Hendry Campus.  Members of the community were recently invited to tour the state-of-the-art facility to learn more about the training programs and view students in action. The Open House marked a year since the IRSC District Board of Trustees approved $290,000 to create the modern 2,700 square-foot laboratory for new and expanded occupational programs.  The Lab features flexible space that can be easily adapted to instruction in the trades, customized training for new industries and other opportunities to support workforce and economic development throughout the County.

“The opening of the Multi-Functional Laboratory underscores the College’s commitment to expansion of practical workforce training at the Okeechobee Campus,” said Dr. Edwin R. Massey, IRSC President. “Hands-on training in the trades is extremely important for workforce development in Okeechobee.”

Since March of 2014, the College has introduced programs in air conditioning, refrigeration and heating, diesel mechanics and commercial drivers’ license, and expanded programs in auto mechanics, horticulture and aquaculture.  Demonstrations related to these and other programs in health care, automotive service, fire science, child care and office skills were featured at the March 24 Open House.   

Exciting new initiatives include award of a $127,000 USDA grant to IRSC to recruit women and minorities from Okeechobee into Bachelor’s Degree programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with a special focus on related careers in agriculture.  Students from middle school through high school and college will participate in workplace experiences, field trips, career fairs and mentoring from industry partners.   IRSC and a consortium of local industries and employers are planning to create the Heavy Equipment Mechanics Training Center at the Dixon Hendry Campus, developed in direct response to the local need for mechanics specializing in heavy equipment, including diesel engine and industrial equipment repair.


Students taking air conditioning/refrigeration/heating in the new Industrial Lab proceed through five classes to develop increasingly sophisticated skills for employment.

Agriculture remains a strong area of focus.  The College is collaborating with Okeechobee High School to offer an Introduction to Aquaculture program for high school students, which will serve as a feeder program to a college degree, In addition, courses in horticulture and lawn care are conveniently offered back-to-back one evening per week for those who wish to advance in the landscape industry

To get a start on the health care career ladder, Okeechobee residents can prepare to become a certified nursing assistant, ready for employment in four months.  The next step is the growing Registered Nursing Program in Okeechobee. Ten students in the program are now engaged in clinical internships at Raulerson Hospital and the Okeechobee Health Care Facility, and will graduate with their Associate Degrees in Nursing in May 2016.  

Another option is Fire Science training at the Dixon Hendry Campus beginning in August. Interested students can enroll for the Fall Semester beginning March 30.  

Automotive Service Technology courses enable students and those already in the industry to gain the highly valued ACE certification, providing the competitive edge for career advancement.  Instruction in diesel mechanics was recently added.  High school students are enrolled in a Dual Enrollment Automotive Technology program offered in partnership between IRSC and Okeechobee High School.

The Commercial Vehicle Driving program is new to the Okeechobee campus.  The program can be completed in as little as ten days and focuses on safety issues, federal regulations, private one-on-one driver instruction, and local on-the-road experience.  Those who complete the program are prepared to acquire a Class “A” CDL license.

Students may begin and attend the Office Skills program at their convenience, choosing to specialize in Administrative Assistant or Medical Assistant.  Participants develop professional office skills, including expertise in Microsoft PowerPoint, Access and Excel, as well as office procedures.  Students in the Medical Assistant program also learn medical terminology, report transcription and the use of legal and insurance forms for working in a medical office.

The Child Care program prepares area residents to obtain CDA credential ready for employment in a child care center or to start their own business.

IRSC also offers English as a Second Language instruction at the Dixon Hendry Campus, providing help reading and writing English as well as citizenship preparation.

Students and graduates can take advantage of career services, with help developing an effective resume, practice with interviewing skills and job fairs held at the Okeechobee campus.

For more information, call or visit the Dixon Hendry Campus at 2229 N.W. 9th Avenue, Okeechobee, 863-824-6000.

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