Armed with GED and in-demand skills, COM program’s graduates enter workforce

Posted on: November 07, 2013

Sometimes help arrives just in time. Newly single mother Tina Hancock, of Texas City, faced a predicament: As a former stay-at-home mom, she needed to re-enter the workforce quickly. However, without a GED certificate or high school diploma she struggled to find a job with a salary that would support her two daughters and herself.
 
“We needed help,” she said. “I have experience in billing and sales, but if you don’t have a GED, you can’t get a job.”
 
She called College of the Mainland and discovered a new grant-funded program at COM designed for students just like her. The program would allow her to earn a GED and workforce certificate simultaneously, accelerating her path to a new career.
 
She eagerly signed up and took GED preparation classes and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) classes on alternating evenings at no cost.
 
Ten months later, she is ready for a new career as an HVAC technician thanks to the program’s instructors and staff.
 
“They make it so easy. It’s your fault if you don’t go,” she said. “My teachers kept me motivated. They’d call and ask, ‘Are you all right? It was like a big family.”
 
Hancock is one of the many students whose successes will be celebrated during the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Accelerate Texas Week Nov. 11-15.
 
COM is a participating college with Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s grant-funded Accelerate Texas programs, which combine GED classes with preparation to enter high-demand fields such as health care, transportation and manufacturing. The programs have helped more than 3,000 students on their way toward college credentials statewide.

COM implemented the initiative in spring 2013 to begin helping students like Hancock. Students have the option of enrolling in welding, HVAC or medical coding and billing courses in conjunction with GED classes.

“No student should worry about tuition and fees. If they need money for tuition, books or supplies, we’ll help them find scholarships and grants that will cover the cost of their education,” said Adult Basic Education director Josh Hayes. “The program gives people who traditionally have had trouble accessing higher education entry points to higher education and career paths. We train them and get them in the workplace.”

The initiative addresses a critical workforce issue: At least 60 percent of Texas jobs will require a career certificate or college degree by 2020, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, while 44 percent of Texans over age 25 have never been to college, let alone earned a degree or certificate.

Once students complete the program and earn a GED and often a workforce certificate, staff prepare them to land a job. They coach students through resume writing and conduct and record practice interviews in the COM Speaking, Reading and Writing Center so students can improve their communications skills.

“We link them to resources so they can succeed,” said Roger Mora, adult education career navigator.
 
Many students, now armed with a GED certificate and marketable skill, refuse to stop there. For instance, the certificate in medical billing and coding can lead to an associate degree at COM, a route many students who want to advance in their field select. The certificate allows them to work in an entry-level job while pursuing higher education.
 
“Once students get their name on a piece of paper, they realize they do want to go to college,” said Mora. “They get hungry for it.”
 
The COM Adult Basic Education Program offers free ESL and GED classes to residents in Galveston County and the part of Harris County included in Clear Creek ISD. For more information, call 409-933-8294 or email jhayes@com.edu.


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