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Distance and size sometimes work against rural school districts when it comes to vocational/technical education.

Many small high schools cannot afford the kinds of equipment needed to train students in modern job skills, said Van Bushnell, provost over vocational education for Southern Utah State College. Nor do they have the personnel to provide instruction.The college stepped into the breach this summer to give students from seven counties a training experience they could not get in their own schools.

SUSC held two one-week, concentrated courses during June for students from Washington, Iron, Kane, Beaver, Wayne, Garfield and Sevier counties. In all, 80 students attended classes in four subject areas - computer-aided drafting, word processing, criminal justice and interior design.

The innovation was planned through the Southwest Regional Coordinating Council for vocational/technical education, Bushnell said. Each of the state's nine regions has developed a vocational/technical plan to upgrade emphasis on such training.

Before selecting courses for the summer sessions, SUSC and Dixie College cooperated on a survey of students in the area served by the region to determine where there was the greatest interest. Dixie had a much smaller summer program but has a very strong relationship with high schools in its area.

From 20 suggestions that had the greatest support from students, the choices were winnowed down, Bushnell said.

Students spent the entire week of each course on campus, living in dormitories and participating in a variety of social and education activities. Many of them also took advantage of early or late hours to expand on their coursework.

The cost of the summer program, $235 for each student, was shared by the college, the local school districts and the students themselves.

The students earned both college credit (three hours) and high school credit for the work they completed.

"We were really elated," said Bushnell. "We didn't expect so many students would come do it. It was a very positive experience."

Already the college is planning for a repeat of the summer program next year.

One student was able to take a job based on his one-week training experience at SUSC.

Lyman Munford, SUSC professor of technology, also was enthusiastic about the program. He said he anticipates a doubling of enrollment for next year. The students went through a concentrated experience, he said, attending classes both morning and afternoon to earn the college credit.

Chaperones and tutors were available to help those with special needs, he said.

SUSC has an ongoing program to help high schools in the area to enrich vocational/technical offerings, Munford said. Efforts are being made to provide classes in the evening and at other times when it is convenient for the students.

In some emerging technological fields, knowledge is doubling every two years, Munford said. That leaves training institutions with a significant challenge to keep up with market needs.