Lifelong Learning

Bellevue College offers the chance to learn new skills at any age
Bellevue College - 425 Magazine

Courtesy Bellevue College

Whether you’re a career professional looking to climb the ladder of success or a retired person eager to learn something new, local colleges and universities offer a wide spectrum of courses and certificate programs designed to meet you where you are and help you achieve your goals. With several colleges and satellite university campuses right in our backyard, there is an abundance of continuing education opportunities on the Eastside available to meet the needs of local learners.

Bellevue College, for example, serves approximately 15,000 students annually through its continuing education programs, according to Al Lewis, vice president of Economic and Workforce Development. “We’d like to think — and we’ve been told — that we’re the largest continuing education program among community colleges in the state,” said Lewis. “Our focus in continuing education is primarily adults who are seeking to either advance in their careers, enhance their skills, or stay active from a learning standpoint.”

While providing Eastside adults with a multitude of options for advancing their education and careers, Bellevue College also is helping fill the local employment gap by working with area employers to identify the skills that are in highest demand.

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“Our focus is on reducing the job gap between what (students) are learning in schools and what employers in our area actually want,” added Mark Veljkov, director of Technology Programs for Bellevue College.

Veljkov said Bellevue College develops many of its programs based on feedback it receives from the recruiters and companies it partners with, designing curriculum to include the skills and competencies local employers seek. “I think that’s one of the differentiators for us,” he said.

Earlier last year, the White House named Bellevue a Tech Hire City. Since then, Bellevue College also has aligned itself with the City of Bellevue to further identify the technology skills most sought after by local employers.

“We are working closely with the City of Bellevue, and specifically James Henderson, the director of economic development, to explore ways to become even better at delivering the competencies-based programs that employers need on the Eastside,” said Lewis.

With an emphasis on staying current, Bellevue College recently has added several new technology courses and certificates to its list of continuing education offerings, including a new virtual reality developer programming course.

“We’re also looking at programming for entrepreneurs,” said Lewis. “This area is hot and huge for startup organizations.”

In addition to its many technology offerings, Bellevue College’s health care programs also are robust.

For busy health care professionals looking to keep their credentials current or further advance their careers, Bellevue College offers a variety of continuing education health care courses and certificates designed to work with students’ busy schedules.

Al Lewis - 425 Magazine

Al Lewis, vice president of Economic and Workforce Development at Bellevue College. Photo by Rachel Coward.

“It’s important for people who already are working to be able to continue working,” said Leslie Heizer Newquist, dean of the Health Sciences Education & Wellness Institute at Bellevue College. “One of the things about the certificate programs, for example in health care data analytics and health care informatics, is that (the programs) are entirely online, so students are able to do the work on a schedule that works with their work schedules and still get a rigorous education that enables them to advance.”

With an overall demand for skilled professionals in the health care field, Newquist said Bellevue College’s continuing education opportunities are a perfect way for health care professionals to gain new experience and keep their existing skills sharp.

Lake Washington Technical College“There’s always that need to upskill and reskill, and maybe even move laterally in an organization,” she said. “I think for all of those things, continuing education is really perfect.”

Bellevue College’s health care programs include everything from courses in customer service for health care to a health care data analyst certification. And for those looking for a registered nurse refresher course, Bellevue College offers the only course in the state that isn’t entirely online. “If you want to come and refresh your skills in a lab, a really modern lab, then this is the place to come and do that,” said Newquist.

Bellevue College’s immersive, hands-on approach to continuing education can be found in many of its course offerings and certificate programs, and is one of the reasons students rave about their experiences.

Silvia Chang, a recent graduate of the University of Washington, enrolled in Bellevue College’s UX Design program earlier this spring. Coming from a large university, Chang was used to large lecture halls where one-on-one time with instructors was limited. At Bellevue College, Chang said, the classes are smaller and instruction is more personalized.

“The classes are really small,” she said, “so you get a lot more tailored classroom instruction.” She also appreciates how experienced the instructors are. “The content is just superb,” added Chang. “These are teachers who work in the industry now currently, so it’s not like they did UX design 10 years ago and are teaching outdated information. There are people who are in the field right now who can provide up-to-date information.”

For Reid Havens, this sentiment especially rings true.

After applying for a job at Microsoft several years ago, Havens, who holds a master’s degree in leadership and organizational development, was turned down for the position but encouraged to obtain a technical certification and reapply.

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After researching local courses and certificates, Havens eventually settled on the business intelligence and database certification program at Bellevue College.

“I started the program in 2013, and it took me about a year and a half (to complete),” he said. “I took all my classes in the evening, while I was essentially working full-time.”

Fast forward to today, and the Bellevue College alum has launched his own company, Havens Consulting Inc., and works as a principal consultant for PowerPivotPro. He also is a member of Bellevue College’s adjunct faculty.

“It was certainly through a bit of luck and connectivity that led me to getting into the industry, but having that certification really helped me get to this spot,” said Havens.

Reid Havens - 425 Magazine

Bellevue College alum Reid Havens now runs his own business and is an adjuncy faculty member at the school.

Havens is a prime example of the type of instructors Bellevue College aims to employ — industry professionals who can bring current, real-world experience to the classroom.

“Our faculty is so committed and dedicated to student success,” said Jody Laflen, dean of the Institute for Business & Information Technology at Bellevue College. “Our faculty teach a certain amount of classes and they’re supposed to have a certain amount of office hours, but I think most of the faculty in my division far exceed that every single quarter.”

Faculty members at Bellevue College are known for hosting extra study sessions, additional computer labs, and extended office hours, and are always willing to go the extra mile for their students, Laflen said.

“Our faculty does this voluntarily out of their own free time,” said Laflen. “They do it because they care. That’s our faculty.”

If you’re looking to advance your education for career or personal gain, Bellevue College and other local schools host a wide assortment of courses and certificate programs year-round.

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is a staff writer at 425 magazine. Email her.
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