For the more than 500,000 working-age state residents who never graduated from high school, the Alabama Community College System’s free adult education program is a pathway to a job, a higher-paying position or a college degree.
ACCS officials believe the adult education program can add another incentive for individuals to earn the General Education Development (GED) certificate. Through a pilot program that links a GED to ACCS technical training courses, the system believes it can prepare students for the workforce and deliver a large supply of skilled workers to manufacturers and other employers across Alabama.
“Across Alabama, there are many companies that need skilled workers, and the state is dependent on the two-year system to produce workers ready to build airplanes, cars, ships and more,” ACCS Chancellor Mark Heinrich said. “For many Alabama residents, obtaining the GED credential represents the first step toward building a new career. If we can get them into one of our technical programs, they are going to be successful – and Alabama is going to benefit.”
Heinrich believes the pilot program is so important that the system considers funding for it to be a budget priority in the upcoming fiscal year. ACCS also wants Alabama lawmakers to restore funding that was trimmed from the adult education program’s allocation in the previous legislative session.
Linking the GED and technical training is essential today, Heinrich said, because Alabama manufacturers and other businesses will need a new supply of skilled workers as baby boomers begin to retire. Expanding the number of people involved in ACCS workforce development programs will help meet those needs, he said.
At sites across Alabama, the ACCS adult education program provides free, individualized assistance to those seeking the equivalent of a high school diploma. During fiscal 2012-13, nearly 4,500 people enrolled in the ACCS adult education program earned a GED.
For these individuals, the GED certificate puts them back on a path to employment, a promotion or a college degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that annual median earnings for a person with a GED are nearly $10,000 higher than for a high school dropout.
Putting GED earners on the pathway to a highly skilled, in-demand job through ACCS technical training will push the earnings potential for those individuals even higher, Heinrich said. In addition, developing a deeper pool of skilled workers will equip Alabama economic developers with another tool as they work on projects.
“This is a cost-effective way to avert what could become a problem for Alabama employers needing skilled workers as retirements begin to roll through the workforce,” Heinrich said. “It’s one of the ways ACCS can help supply Alabama’s workforce, while providing training and employment opportunities to many deserving individuals.”