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2016 November 3 - 04:37 pm

Iowa Program Helps Low-Income Students Burnish Job Skills

Short-Term Program Offers Certificates in Business, IT, Health Fields

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Students at Iowa Western Community College are motivated by different reasons to continue their education, but one reason rings true for everyone — they want better job opportunities.

The Education 2 Employment program at Iowa Western is helping students take the next step in their career path. The program, funded by the state of Iowa, is designed to help lowincome students enhance their skills and help them find better jobs.

Interested students can apply to be in the program through an application process after which the college determines each student’s eligibility based on family income, family size and skill level.

After a student is accepted, they have the option to choose from four different career pathways: health occupations, IT and business, manufacturing and logistics. All programs are short-term as opposed to a traditional two- or four-year degree.

Libby Woods, E2E coordinator, said the college prefers not to publish the income requirements because they don’t want to discourage anyone from applying.

“If the requirement is only a difference of a few hundred dollars, we still want to be able to work with that student and make it work,” Woods said.

The program also can provide funding assistance with childcare, books, transportation help with gas and bus passes and even materials such as welding boots and scrubs.

“We want to plant that seed in students and tell them we see your career path as this or that,” Woods said.

Sometimes, that seed is first planted in IWCC’s HiSET program. Formerly known as the GED, the HiSET is an exam that adults can complete to earn the equivalent to a high school diploma.

Heather Eshellman is working on taking the exam this year so she can enroll in E2E and continue her education to work in IT one day.

“I don’t have a GED or a high school diploma, and I’m a grandma now — and I’m tired of not making money,” Eshellman said.

This is her ninth time in the HiSET program, and she hopes it’s her last time, but there’s a reason she keeps coming back to IWCC.

“I have help here. If you need your GED come here, they’re here to help. They don’t throw you in the back of the classroom and just let you go on your own,” Eshellman said.

Dena Voie, adult literacy instructor, helps to plant that initial seed in students.

“Only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is teach,” Voie said.

After her position was eliminated at the post-secondary level, she started teaching at IWCC earlier this year.

“Students have to be driven by motivation,” Voie said. “It’s about doing homework every day. It’s about attitude. It’s not how smart you are — it’s about how bad you want it.”

After a student is accepted into the E2E program, a pathway navigator helps the student develop a career path or degree plan. The program is made up of both nontraditional and traditional students — 41 students are currently in the E2E program.

The program offers job search assistance, resume development and critiquing, interview skills and the opportunity to learn from industry professionals.

Megan Hyme applied for a spot, received funding and started the program right out of high school. She chose the manufacturing pathway and is a student in combination welding.

“I like everything about this program,” Hyme said. “I like getting hands on learning and advice on how to better our welds. It will help us get jobs outside of the classroom.”

Every week, the college goes into classrooms and exposes students to different working opportunities. And, in some cases, the businesses come directly to the E2E program to fill their positions.

“This program gives residents an opportunity to explore and further their education all while receiving funds to help with those opportunities,” Woods said. “Employers are always coming to us looking for potential employees because of this program.”

Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, http://www.nonpareilonline.com

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