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  1. Record number enroll at Bidwell Training Center

    For the entire 2018–2019 fiscal year Bidwell Training Center (BTC) enrolled 120 students, and BTC is projecting a significant increase in enrollment as this fall alone 89 students have enrolled in classes.

    This fall BTC enrolled its largest horticulture technology class in the history of the program. Its medical programs this fall exceeded total medical enrollment from last fiscal year and new cohorts are starting this upcoming spring.

    Strategic Changes Made to BTC’s Admissions

    When Executive Director Kimberly Rassau Ed.D. started at BTC this year, her priority
    was increasing the number of students served. Significant changes were made to the admissions strategy causing these excellent results. BTC has done a complete re-brand of their marketing materials and focused more on digital marketing in order to meet potential students where they are spending a lot of their time.

    While the admissions process is the same, BTC has been more flexible to try and accommodate future students. For instance, while informational sessions are still held Mondays and Wednesdays at 8:45 a.m., potential students can now make an appointment to do an informational session if they aren’t able to make it to the one of those two days. Furthermore, a new addition to the admissions team has increased recruitment efforts.

    While the numbers prove the efforts are effective, BTC still has more changes planned.
    You’ll soon catch a new BTC commercial on television featuring BTC’s best ambassadors: alums. In addition, expect to see a complete redesign of the BTC website soon that will be clearer, modern, and easier to navigate.

    2019 BTC Placement Rates

    As reported in BTC’s 2019 Annual Report to the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, BTC’s overall job placement rate is 82%. BTC placement officers keep in touch with graduates to check on their employment and provide career advisement. Below are the individual programs’ placement rates:

    • Laboratory Technician – 93%
    • Culinary Arts – 73%
    • Horticulture Technology – 77%
    • Medical Assistant – 100%
    • Medical Claims Processor – 73%
    • Medical Coder – 71%
    • Pharmacy Technician – 89%

    Apply to BTC

    Offering no-cost career training to Pennsylvania residents with a high school diploma
    or equivalent is not a secret that should be kept from anyone who can take advantage
    of this innovative educational model. If you or someone you know wants to learn
    more about enrolling at BTC call 1-800-516-1800.

  2. In memoriam: Gary Caldwell, Director of Student Services

    Gary Caldwell, Director of Student Services. Photo by Germaine Watkins.

    Bidwell Training Center (BTC) lost a family member this fall—Gary Caldwell, 43, Director of Student Services. Caldwell started changing lives at BTC in 2003 when he started as a Student Advisor and eventually rose to Associate Director of Student Services and then to Director of Student Services.

    It is often noted that one of the things that sets BTC apart from other institutions is the quality of support services we offer to our students who all come from different backgrounds and require assistance in different areas. Caldwell set the tone and standard for those important services.

    Known to be the one all could go to when they needed someone to talk to during difficult times, Caldwell’s loss hit significantly hard on BTC and the community.

    Caldwell spent time helping others outside of his time at BTC as he was also associate
    producer of the documentary “From Liberty to Captivity,” which shines a light on
    the issue of sex trafficking.

    His heart and his legacy will live on at BTC and in the region.

  3. Internal promotions prove the quality of Bidwell Training Center’s staff

    Professional development is something every person should work on throughout their entire professional career. Bidwell Training Center (BTC) emphasizes this with students and sets the example with the development they do with their own employees. BTC has had three internal promotions this year that demonstrate the excellent quality of its staff.

    Tiaona Cade, Career Services Coordinator. Photo by Germaine Watkins.

    Tiaona Cade started her time at BTC in 2018 as a placement officer. In her new role, Cade ensures career preparation throughout the student life cycle for all programs and makes career readiness a priority.









    Regina Hergenroeder, Student Advisor. Photo by Germaine Watkins.

    Regina Hergenroeder started as the Administrative
    Assistant for the culinary arts program six years ago and was recently promoted to student advisor. Hergenroeder now provides supportive services to an assigned number of student cohorts with the goal of enhancing student engagement, facilitating academic success, overcoming personal barriers, and helping students achieve their educational and career aspirations.






    Audra Pavloski, Student Services Coordinator. Photo by Germaine Watkins.

    A student advisor when she started at BTC in 2017, Audra Pavloski now serves as Student Services Coordinator. Pavloski is now a liaison between BTC and outside agencies, which include the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Veterans Affairs, Pennsylvania Women Work, and others.








    “Tiaona, Regina, and Audra are committed to our mission and showed interest in taking on a more prominent role in the scope of operations,” said Ken Huselton, Senior Director of Operations.

  4. 101 new donors give to Manchester Bidwell Corporation

    Support from individual donors truly makes a difference in MBC’s ability to provide empowering learning environments and innovative programming to members of our community who are often overlooked. This year, we welcomed 101 new individual donors to our MBC family. Thank you!

    So often, caring people who are looking to make a difference are introduced to our programming through those who already share a passion for our mission. Our supporters bring them in for a tour, an MCG Jazz concert, an MCG Youth & Arts exhibition, a reception catered by our Bidwell Training Center culinary staff and students, or the Drew Mathieson Center greenhouse open house.

    Others express their respect, love, and gratitude by making a thoughtful gift in honor or memory of someone. New donors are also introduced through their workplace United Way giving or matching programs.

    If you would like to introduce someone to MBC through a visit, or honor or remember them with a gift, please contact Kerry May at 412-323-4000 ext. 261.

  5. Manchester Bidwell Corporation welcomes new board members

    Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) is always looking for bright minds from Pittsburgh’s important institutions to join its Board of Directors. Ann E. Cudd and David Rzepecki are perfect for helping MBC advance its mission.

    Ann E. Cudd, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor, University of Pittsburgh. May 19, 2015. Photograph by Dan Aguirre for BU Photography.

    As provost and senior vice chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh, Cudd is responsible for the university’s academic mission.

    When Cudd joined the university in 2018, MBC Founder and Executive Chairman Bill Strickland immediately invited her to tour MBC, and her desire to support the organization grew from there.

    Having Cudd’s input is imperative for MBC as she can provide insights on how the organization can help prepare our youth students at MCG Youth & Arts for success after high school. For Bidwell Training Center, Cudd provides a wealth of knowledge about education and how to help our adult students who are using Bidwell Training Center as a stepping stone into additional post-secondary education.




    David Rzepecki

    David Rzepecki, Vice President, General Counsel, Secretary and Compliance Officer, Covestro LLC


    Covestro has been an important partner for MBC stretching back to the founding of Bidwell Training Center’s chemical laboratory technician program. If you remember from our last issue of Assembling Success, Covestro alone has hired 70 Bidwell Training Center students in the 27 years that the chemical laboratory technician program has existed. This partnership has grown even stronger with the addition of Rzepecki to MBC’s Board of Directors.

    As vice president, general counsel, secretary, and compliance officer at Covestro, Rzepecki is an advisor to all Covestro business and service units. His experience in procurement, government affairs, finance, accounting, controlling, and tax functions at Covestro allows him to provide immeasurable guidance to MBC’s staff.



  6. A Dream Becomes Reality: Annamaria’s Story

    Annamaria Esplen, BTC culinary arts alum and owner of Anna’s Sunrise Café and Catering at UPMC’s South Hills.

    Since she was a young girl, Bidwell Training Center (BTC) alumna Annamaria Esplen has always had a love for cooking and a passion for planning parties. Annamaria recalls “Over the years, everyone told me that I should be a caterer or open a restaurant.”

    However, Annamaria’s path didn’t lead her to BTC right away.

    “After high school, I went to college for a year,” said Annamaria. “I came home and took a summer job with a small fastener distributor.”

    Annamaria worked 32 years for that company and learned all aspects of the business. She spent 15 years working in purchasing and then moved on to sales. She held a dual role as an in-house buyer and sales representative for one of the company’s largest customers.

    Thirty-two years later, the company was sold, so she decided to move on and make her earlier dream of owning a restaurant come true.

    “Twenty-five years ago, I brought my stepdaughter to tour BTC,” said Annamaria. “At that time, I fell in love with the culinary department, but unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right. At this point in my life, I knew I needed to attend BTC to help me become successful in my next adventure.”

    BTC’s culinary arts program enabled Annamaria with the push she needed to open her own catering business.

    “With what I learned and experienced through the classes, kitchen time, and volunteering for as many events as possible,” Annamaria explained, “it helped me grow; gave me the opportunity and confidence that I needed to move forward with my plans.”

    Annamaria in Bidwell Training Center’s culinary amphitheater during her time as a student.

    Since graduating from BTC in February 2019, Annamaria has opened Anna’s Sunrise Café and Catering at UPMC’s South Hills location. The Café is a small, open-air space that serves the medical and building staff and patients. As Annamaria’s business continues to grow, she is finalizing the details to open a second location.

    She has now taken the next steps to pay it forward, joining the American Culinary Federation Pittsburgh Chapter and serving on the BTC Culinary Arts advisory board.

    When asked what she would say to someone who is considering BTC, Annamaria exclaimed, “Do it! Open your mind, take the time to take on new challenges, and gain new opportunities. Everyone is there to help you succeed and improve your life.”

  7. MCG Jazz Inspires Collaboration in 33rd Season

    MCG Jazz’ 2019-2020 concert season features artists that explore the theme of creative connections. Internal collaborations of musicians and musical styles will demonstrate jazz music’s connectiveness to the listener and to the collective world culture.

    The diverse grouping of musicians and wide range of styles that make jazz music so vibrant today will be represented from traditional piano/vocal duo and standards settings to avantgarde and jazz fusion.

    Each concert will be performed twice for the public, and each performance will be recorded for inclusion in MCG Jazz’ archives collection. Select artists will participate in educational outreach or community engagement activities.

    If you are interested in subscribing, you can download an order form here.

    How to submit your order form:

    Mail your orders to MCG Jazz “Attn: Nick” 1815 Metropolitan Street, Pittsburgh PA 15233
    Email your completed order to
    Phone in your orders by calling Nick at 412-322-0800. We will be experiencing high call volumes, so please leave a message if you aren’t connected!
    Fax your completed form to 412-322-1075.


  8. Bidwell Training Center’s New Executive Director Stands As a Model for Students

    Kimberly Rassau, Ed.D, Bidwell Training Center’s new executive director

    Bidwell Training Center (BTC) has hired Kimberly Rassau, Ed. D., as its new executive director. Rassau comes to BTC with career training leadership experience working in several executive and dean positions at various for-profit schools.

    “Kim’s extensive experience and accomplishments in career training and higher education were the first things that caught our attention in our search for a new executive director at BTC,” said Kevin Jenkins, Manchester Bidwell Corporation President & CEO. “Her innovative ideas peaked our interest as they will allow us to help more people in the community while also pushing BTC as a leader in the career training space. And the fact that she was a non-traditional student who can serve as a model for our students cemented her as being our choice to help steer BTC into the next 50 years.”

    Rassau enters BTC in its 51st year after the departure of former executive director Valerie Njie, who retired after dedicating 37 years to the school.

    “I have tremendous amount of respect for what Valerie and the staff here have built,” said Rassau. “BTC has been a school of excellence two consecutive times. I know I have incredibly big shoes to fill.”

    Rassau plans to take BTC’s successful education model and look ahead as the school faces a changing education sector.

    “I want to make sure that the school remains relevant and sustainable,” said Rassau.“The landscape changes rapidly and industry needs can be fickle on any given day and on any given year. I want to make sure that BTC is not just meeting all the necessary standards but setting them.”

    While this is Rassau’s first time working for a non-profit, she’s been very familiar with schools like BTC from a young age. Rassau’s mother worked enacting the Jobs Training Partnership Act (JTPA), which gave money to organizations and tuitionfree schools to prepare youth and unskilled adults for the labor force. BTC was one of the organizations that received support from the JTPA. Rassau’s enthusiasm for the work started when she was a JTPA teen board member in high school, and while she made some deviations on the way she found herself back helping adults in transition.

    “I realized that I absolutely did not want to work for an organization that was strictly numbers driven only,” said Rassau. “ I feel like BTC is a perfect fit because what I’m doing is valued at a level that is focused more on developing the human spirit.”

    Aside from the enthusiasm for the work and her vast experience in the field, Rassau is also very familiar with many of the obstacles and stresses many of our students face.

    Rassau’s father worked at Edgewater Steel, and in 1981—when she was graduated from Valley Senior High School in New Kensington, PA—the steel industry was on the cusp of collapsing. Worried about her no longer being on his health insurance, Rassau’s father made it a priority for her to get a job so she could get health insurance. She luckily landed an administrative assistant position at Carnegie Mellon University, but it would take over eight years until she started working for Education Management Corporation and was asked to consider going back to school.

    “At that time I wasn’t thinking at all about going back to school let alone getting my bachelor’s degree,” said Rassau. “I had felt that school just wasn’t for me.”

    However once she returned to pursue her secondary education, she didn’t stop for 12 years until she got her doctorate in organizational leadership.

    “I know what it’s like driving down Route 28 at 10:30 p.m., crying your eyes out because your exhausted then get back up in the morning to go to work, do your homework, go to class, and do it all over again,” said Rassau. “I know exactly how it feels to look at your checkbook and think ‘I got $4.37 and payday is not for seven days but I have to pay my bills today.’”

    Rassau shared her story of being a nontraditional student during an assembly with BTC students and staff on her first week as executive director.

    “You’re never too old to realize your self worth or your potential earning power,” Rassau said during the assembly. “For me, that happened very much later in life.”

    While Rassau is inspired by the work BTC’s staff has done for 50 years there is one area that she wants to change.

    “My goal is to get rid of the idea that BTC is the best kept secret,” said Rassau. “I want to increase our exposure, so people stop thinking that BTC is only for a certain kind of student that lives on the North Side. BTC is a wonderful opportunity for everyone.”

  9. BTC Provides Culinary Art Students A New Pathway to a Degree With New Partnership

    Bidwell Training Center culinary arts students. Photograph by Jonathan Zito.

    Bidwell Training Center (BTC) and Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) have entered into an articulation agreement that will allow BTC’s culinary art students to transfer credits to CCAC if they wish to pursue a culinary arts degree.

    With regular wait lists to enroll, BTC’s culinary arts diploma program is among the career training school’s most popular majors. Our students have gone on to work at some of Pittsburgh’s most prestigious restaurants, started their own restaurants, and established their own catering companies. At no cost to qualified students the culinary arts program—like all other BTC programs—provides an excellent first step for student’s to change their lives. This new articulation agreement will help provide new opportunities for our students who would like to continue their studies and get an Associate in Applied Science from CCAC in culinary arts.

    “This is a wonderful opportunity for Bidwell’s culinary arts graduates who would like to receive their Associates Degree in culinary arts,” said Cynthia Tuite, BTC’s culinary arts program director. “This agreement will give them the opportunity to have a flexible schedule with CCAC by receiving credits for courses completed at Bidwell Training Center.”

  10. Two New Medical Companies Join BTC’S Industry Advisory Boards

    Adagio Health and Accredo have joined Bidwell Training Center’s (BTC) industry advisory boards, which help shape curriculum to better prepare students for employment and help develop externship and placement opportunities.

    Adagio Health is now part of the medical assistant industry advisory board. For nearly 50 years, Adagio Health has served over 100,000 patients and clients—most of them women who are uninsured and underinsured—in 23 counties in Western Pennsylvania. They provide life-changing services including 9,000 breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings through the HealthyWoman, WiseWoman, and the Komen Mammogram Voucher program, which help low-income underinsured women. Their insight on women’s health will be a great asset for the medical assistant students.

    Pharmacy technician students will gain more knowledge about the specialty pharmacy field with the addition of Accredo to their industry advisory board. This specialty pharmacy company serves patients with HIV, cancer, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, and other complicated health conditions. Focusing on these complex conditions allows the pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and nurses to provide more personalized care to the patients.

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