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.”