Center of Workforce Innovations offers virtual classes, free high school equivalent testing

By: Allison Tunstall | Last Updated: July 16, 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year, businesses and organizations did a hard look at how operations would continue as quarantine and social distancing progressed. For many, like Center of Workforce Innovations (CWI), procedures and systems changed dramatically to align with new social distancing measures. But CWI saw this as an opportunity to enhance their mission by rolling out new virtual classes and free high school equivalency (HSE) testing for their Adult Education Centers, allowing adult learners to continue their education during this difficult time.

“The big piece of news that we are excited about is the Department of Workforce Development has been able leverage some CARES Act funds so that we are able to pay for students to take the HSE,” said John Schlatter from Center for Workforce Innovations.

The test, previously known as the GED, used to cost students $95 out of pocket. For many adult learners, this became an obstacle in continuing their education.

“Many of our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Schlatter said. “So now through December 30, we are going to be able to leverage those funds for people to take it,” Schlatter said. “This is extraordinary for CWI. We had been hearing for years that the HSE fee to take the exam was a major barrier for students, so we are very excited to take that pressure away from them.”

Students must meet the following criteria to receive this funding for the HSE: 1) they will need to be enrolled in an adult education program, like that available through CWI, and 2) they will have to pass an assessment that CWI gives called the Readiness Test, which determines whether the student is ready for the program.

This comes on the heels of CWI moving their classes, all of which are free to the community, completely online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while some courses are welcoming students back to in-person instruction, virtual classes will continue for students looking to take courses in anything ranging from healthcare and education, to restaurant management and coding, an important move to ensure that education is not interrupted.

Special workshops also have been completely virtual and have touched on topics like job searches, coping with job loss, interviewing, and more.  

The Center of Workforce Innovations also recognized a need in the Region to provide training for specific fields in response to the pandemic. CWI has looked at data coming out of the pandemic to figure out what industries and sectors need workers so CWI can provide training to students where needed. With healthcare hit hard by the pandemic, CWI has stepped up to provide special training in sanitization and even mental health.

“Our mission from the very beginning, on both the workforce and the adult education sides, has been helping people and helping the Region,” Schlatter said. “We are always looking for ways to help people improve their lives, to learn a new skill, and be a more self-sustaining person.”

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