COCC Has the “Tools” to Help Individuals Achieve Their Personal Goals 


Central Oregon Community College (COCC) is much like a Swiss Army knife. Just as the knife has a tool to use depending on the circumstances, COCC has multiple ways for students to achieve their individual goals, whether it’s taking a class for personal development, building their business or gaining skills for a career.

Here are three examples of the many opportunities that await students at COCC: 

Small Business Development Center

Small Business Development Center Director Ken Betschart would like to dispel a common misconception about the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Central Oregon Community College.

Too often, he said, people think it’s a resource just for those who are starting a new business.

“We serve small businesses in every phase, from initial concept to the transfer or sale of the business,” Betschart said. “We are here for the entire lifecycle of the business and we encourage people to come talk with us about whatever their specific need might be.”

The SBDC is dedicated to helping small-business owners successfully build and operate their businesses. They offer pro-bono one-to-one advising, business planning, educational workshops, marketing classes and assistance in accessing capital. SBDC’s mission is to “deliver expert business advice and education to help existing and future business owners grow and succeed.” Small-business owners can take a noncredit course or workshop on how to start a business, write a business plan, use Quickbooks or market their product. Together, the SBDC offers knowledge and skills to make good business decisions. There is a fee for workshops and courses. There are SBDC offices in Bend and Redmond, but advising, courses and more are available across COCC’s four campuses — and online. 

“We are now bundling our courses where students take a class and are assigned homework, then meet with their advisor the following week and then meet again as a class,” he said. “

Betschart said SBDC has a team of experienced professionals who provide pro-bono guidance and advice to current business owners. There is no limit how many times a business advisor can meet with an advisor.

“We also invite business owners to make an appointment to meet with an advisor for a one-on-one meeting to talk about their specific needs,” he said. “Our advisors are former business owners. We try to match a business owner with an advisor who has a similar professional background.”

Before the pandemic, advisors meet with 15 to 20 business owners a week. Since the pandemic, the number has grown to 80 to 100 businesses a week.

“Our advisors work to establish a trusted relationship with the business owner. We have people who understand how various financial, state and federal programs work and who are there to help you navigate what needs to be done,” Betschart said. “Everything we do to help a small-business owner is confidential and it is kept confidential.”

Employers facing staffing challenges can meet with an advisor to discuss ways to keep their current staff engaged and encouraged or have an advisor to a financial analysis on closing for one day a week versus shorter days. 

“Our advisors want business owners to know they have an advocate to help them operate a successful business,” he said.

Visit, click on Continuing Education, then Small Business Development Center or call 541-383-7290.

Health Careers Center

COCC Health Careers Instructional Dean Julie Downing said the pandemic has shown her how Central Oregonians truly want to help people.

“We have students right out of high school enter our health programs, as well as people wanting to start a second career,” Downing said. “Healthcare offers a way for people to help others, give back to their community in an important role and earn living wages.”

Downing said COCC has a variety of healthcare programs for students to help students be meaningfully employed in a short period of time.

The Health Careers Center on the COCC Bend campus houses the college’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) health programs. On each of the Center’s three floors, there are labs mimicking real-world work environments and innovative spaces designed specifically for student learning. Students can enroll in classes for dental assisting, massage therapy, medical assistant, nursing, pharmacy technician, veterinary technician, EMT, paramedic, health information management and more.

“Our nursing program is highly competitive to get into,” Downing said. “We also offer programs that are just a single term, such as Phlebotomy, and students can be certified to start work once they complete the program.”

Downing said all of the programs have CTE Advisory Boards who meet at least twice a year. “The boards’ members are from different healthcare areas and give us valuable information on what skills, training and knowledge our students need to know to remain employable in these ever- changing fields.”

Downing said COCC has several other amazing partnerships in the medical community where students can earn clinical hours and get on-the-job training.

“Our students can learn on the job, practice in our labs and see firsthand what a certain job is like,” she said.

Students in the nursing assistant program go with their clinical instructor in groups of ten to earn their 160 hours of clinical rotation. Students work with patients under the guidance of certified nurses and nursing assistants. 

“I am really proud of the quality of education our COCC students are receiving from our faculty and from their experience working with our community health partners,” Downing said. “Our students are well-prepared, skilled and knowledgeable. We are educating highly trained and effective healthcare providers to meet the needs of our community now and in the future.”

Students interested in learning more about COCC’s Health Careers should email Wendi Worthington at

Continuing Education

Whether you are interested in learning a new language, joining a community choir or taking a leadership class, Continuing Education Marketing Manager Caren Graham said you can find your interests at COCC. 

“Our Continuing Education classes are designed for both personal enrichment and professional development for students 16 years of age and older,” Graham said. “We also have Youth Programs for students 10 to 15 years old.” 

Graham said the Continuing Education program serves 8,000 students a year through its on-campus, online and hybrid classes. In-person classes are offered in Bend, Redmond, Prineville and Madras. 

“Our personal enrichment classes vary from culinary to fitness to art classes,” she said. “We also have continuing education for professionals including massage therapists, dental assistants and more.”

She said the professional development classes can be customized for local businesses with options including teaching Spanish for the workplace, customer service, project management and workforce development.

“We also have a partnership with COCC where students can audit college classes, taking the course but not receiving credit or a grade,” she said.

Always eager to meet the community’s needs, Graham said examples of some unique classes this fall are Understanding and Handling Skills with Rescue Horses, Whiskeys of the World, Mushroom Identification and Live Well, Die Well, a class taught by end-of-life doulas.

Professionals who want to enhance their skills can enroll in Dare to Lead Training Program, Mastering Soft Skills or Productivity and Time Management.

“The last year has shown us how important it is to learn new skills,” she said. “People also change jobs or change titles, and they may require new skills that don’t require going back to college but can be acquired in another way.”

Graham said lifelong learning is important for our personal and professional advancement.

“I believe the key to life is to never stop learning and always find something that interests you,” she said.


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