Wor-Wic committed to workforce development

In conversation about their new positions at Wor-Wic Community College, Kerry Cleaver and Rhonda Banks have an easy rapport that illustrates their commitment to education.

Rhonda Banks.

The directors, both in the non-credit school at the college, bounce ideas off each other and learn from one another, especially since Cleaver’s mastery is in community college experience and Banks’ expertise is in high school and university education.

“Wor-Wic is very inviting. Everybody is very welcoming,” said Banks, who, in July, accepted the position of Director of Business and Industry Training in the Continuing Education and Workforce Development Division.

“People answer your questions. The school is very user friendly,” she said.

She has 28 years of experience in secondary and collegiate education consulting and teaching and has taught at Salisbury University and as an adjunct for Delaware State University and Wor-Wic.

Cleaver, who took over as Director of Continuing Education and Workforce Development in September, said the college does more to integrate the mission of credit and non-credit classes than some other schools, where respect between the two isn’t always equal.

“When I arrived at the Wor-Wic campus this summer for my interview, I instantly knew this was where I was meant to be. I immediately felt the kindness of the people here,” Cleaver said.

Kerry Cleaver.

“My programs are Hospitality and Culinary, Summer Scholars, Business and Leadership and Personal Enrichment. I also work with the Board of Education for the three (Lower Shore) counties on the Transitional Youth program,” she said.

Those older than 18, with developmental disabilities, go to Wor-Wic during the regular school year to learn life skills such as cooking.

“Wor-Wic is such an integral part of the community and it offers something for everyone. Every student who studies at Wor-Wic comes here with a different goal,” Cleaver said.

To help them achieve, she meets with instructors about types of classes potential students want. The women speak at community events, offering updates on available courses, and students make suggestions when they fill out instructor evaluation forms.

Continuing education is important because “the community college is the place for the community to come for personal enrichment or to improve skills or trains for new jobs,” Cleaver said.

Students trained at Wor-Wic can confidently go into the workforce with skills necessary for success, Banks said, adding she appreciates how the college “values all of our local industry, trades and manufacturing companies, and is continuing to build pathways that meet the needs of local businesses.”

“The Business and Industry division, which focuses on trades, currently provides classes within automotive, electrical, HVACR, lead paint, manufacturing, pool-spa operators, turf management, wastewater treatment and welding on campus, at Parkside and Worcester Tech high schools.

“In addition, we have partnerships with Delmarva Power and the International Brotherhood of Workers offering preparation classes and electrical apprenticeships, while providing welding at Arcon, carpentry and unmanned aircraft systems’ specialist trainings that are funded by Maryland EARN Grants,” she explained.

There is an unmanned flight training course to introduce students to the history of unmanned aircraft systems and developments in civil and military operations.

“Wor-Wic Community College values all of our local industry, trades and manufacturing companies, and is continuing to build pathways that meet the needs of local businesses,” Banks said.

Cleaver, who has a master’s degree in social work with concentration in community organizing, from the University of Maryland in Baltimore, was a mental health first aid instructor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County before going to Wor-Wic.

She was an adjunct instructor teaching subjects including those in the Gender and Women Studies Department.

Banks, who has a doctorate, worked for the University of Delaware, creating and directing leadership, education and science programs, projects and professional trainings for partnered school systems, businesses and the Delaware Department of Education.

She has also worked as a scientist for NASA and NOAA.

“Here at Wor-Wic, I work alongside top-notch leaders, instructors and support staff, who have the goals of providing programs which meet the demands of the ever-changing local workforce, while increasing economic development within the region,” she said.

Banks’ husband, Brian, works at K&L Microwave.

Cleaver and her husband, Tom, have a 19-year-old daughter, Katie. Tom Cleaver is a retired hotel manager currently taking classes at Wor-Wic to earn his CDL license, so he can be a school bus driver.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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