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This week can be the start of more than a new year -- it can also be the start of a new career.

The Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services will open registration Friday for its classes, which range from intensive instruction in refrigeration, machine and building trades and computer use, to English for Speakers of Other Languages and high school equivalency.

David A. DeMarco, coordinator of the Division of Continuing Education, said the most popular courses include electricity, welding and math, "which is very important. The computer classes are very active, also. We offer a lot of the basics."

BOCES classes are growing in popularity as industry concentrates on cross-training workers to do many jobs instead of specializing.

"They used to have 16 different trades in a company," DeMarco said, but now businesses are requiring workers to have broader skills.

"It's a reduced-cost factor," he said. "They are upgrading a lot of their skilled people."

The classes begin in the first week of February. One class, in electrical fundamentals and basic electronics, will be taught at the Orleans Vocational Center on Shelby Basin Road, off Route 31, in Medina.

All other classes will be taught at the Niagara Vocational Center West, 3181 Saunders Settlement Road, or the Niagara Vocational Center East, 4142 Saunders Settlement Road. Both are near Shawnee Road.

The continuing education division has been successful in focusing its efforts on job training or retraining rather than the wide range of leisure-time classes offered elsewhere, DeMarco said. "The one-night classes on bread baking, those are offered by the high schools. That just doesn't go with us," he said.

Instead, the offerings are geared to someone wishing to learn a skill or trade, like nursing or machine shop work.

Machine shop training "has always been a high-percentage class for us," DeMarco said. "We've had 100 percent placement from that program in the past three years. As fast as we get them out, they hire them."

Many of the courses meet one or two evenings a week, for three or four hours per session, and can be completed while the student is working or has another full-time obligation.

But classes in construction trades, machine trades, keyboarding and secretarial practices and information processing are full-time courses. Except for keyboarding, which runs daily from February to March and costs $197, the others last about six months and cost about $3,000.

"Believe it or not, we do have one or two private pays (students who are financing their own education) in those, but most of that tuition is picked up" by one of several programs that fund training for the unemployed or dislocated workers.

"In addition, many companies have programs that reimburse employees" who study to upgrade their skills, DeMarco said.

The workers in the full-time program receive up-to-date, hands-on training in their area of study, DeMarco said.

He said the classes work in construction and renovation for non-profit agencies in most Niagara County communities, to give students on-the-job experience.

After completing the full-time vocational training classes, graduates receive job-placement help that includes resume-writing, interview techniques, how to conduct a job search and help with job placement.

BOCES follow-up has found that most graduates of the full-time programs are hired to do the work they studied for soon after they complete their instruction.

For nearly a year, the BOCES classes have also drawn workers from Canada who cannot get the required instruction in their own country, DeMarco said.

For a catalog, call the division of continuing education at 731-4176, ext. 451 or 452.