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Katherine HalbertCWE provides practical experience for business tech student

An on-the-job training program at Rogue Community College is helping Katherine “Kat” Halbert transition from the classroom back into the work world.

Halbert, who will graduate in June with an Associate of Applied Science degree, was laid off from a large cabinet manufacturer in 2009. She's been enrolled in RCC's Cooperative Work Experience (CWE) program since winter term.

“As a student, I spend 12 hours a day reading and computing, so it’s hard sometimes to communicate in the outside world,” Halbert said. A business technology student, she’s been serving an internship at the Grants Pass & Josephine County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s also great being in an office work situation and seeing what that’s like,” Halbert added. “This is a fun placement.”

CWE provides students opportunities for hands-on learning in their career areas and enhances classroom studies, according to Laura Peterson, CWE coordinator and RCC Business Technology instructor. It’s also a way to earn college credit for practical experience gained on a worksite.

Christy White, services coordinator for the chamber, values CWE students’ help.

“It’s huge for our office where we have just two staff to oversee 40 volunteers, greet 12,000 drop-in visitors, and handle mailings. I’m thrilled with the CWE program,” said White, who also praised Halbert’s work ethic and the skills she’s picked up at Rogue.

“Kat is quick to understand,” White said. “Just show her one time, and she’s able to pick it up right away and help. Kat’s an excellent worker, and whatever employer gets her is going be really tremendously lucky.”

A 1983 graduate of Hidden Valley High School, Halbert has worked at a wide range of occupations: auto repair business owner, housekeeper, and millworker. From 2003 through 2009, she worked in quality assurance at Masterbrand Cabinets.

“I got laid off in February, three weeks after I went on day shift,” she recalled. With NAFTA retraining funds available, she picked Rogue. “RCC had the programs I was looking for, and I was able to stay in this area,” she noted. Halbert, who had attended Rogue right after high school, was “pleasantly surprised” to find many of her credits still counted. Nowadays her goal is to be an administrative assistant.

“I got the skills and experience I wanted. The teachers at RCC are fantastic,” she said. Laura Peterson’s business classes have been particularly important to Halbert, providing not only technical expertise but also personal insight.

“She brings it down to earth,” Halbert said of Peterson. “Laura had us write a personal code of ethics. She helps you find out who you are and what you want to be. You have to do a lot of soul searching.” Halbert’s ultimate goal is to help other survivors of domestic violence regain momentum in life.

“Some of my classes helped make me realize who I actually am,” Halbert explained. “I’d gotten hardened, and it made me realize I don’t have to put up walls any more and that a lot of people have been through what I’ve been through — and we’re all working toward the same goal.”

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