The Community College of Rhode Island Division of Workforce Partnerships has introduced a program to integrate adult education into postsecondary courses and training programs to give students the skills they need to succeed in a technical course.
Under the Division of Workforce Partnerships, adult education has been reshaped as a “Bridge” program. The division’s focus is not just to help adult students earn a GED® credential, but to assist them to identify career and education goals and develop the skills, content knowledge and learning strategies they need to enter and succeed in postsecondary education and employment.
A key part of CCRI’s Bridge programming is RI-BEST, modeled after Washington State’s nationally recognized I-BEST, Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, program and funded by the Rhode Island Department of Education. Students who take RI-BEST classes earn college credit and receive additional academic support and tutoring.
Many students can take college-level classes when there is built-in support to facilitate their mastery of the pre-college skills that they need to pass the class. RI-BEST classes offer a hybrid of what students need to know immediately – for example, skills needed to succeed in an apprenticeship training or technical course – and what students need to know for life, such as established science, social studies, mathematics and communication skills.
The Division of Workforce Partnerships piloted the first RI-BEST course at CCRI in collaboration with the Fast Track to CNC Manufacturing program last October. The Fast Track program is a partnership with Polaris MEP and funded through the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training's Real Jobs Rhode Island initiative.
Adult education facilitator Jane Reggio worked with shop instructor Danny Gill to design a 24-hour training in math for CNC manufacturing for the first four weeks of the program. Students practiced math skills with the facilitator while also taking three credit-bearing courses: Blueprint Reading and the Machinery’s Handbook, Precision Measurement and Geometric Dimensioning and Introduction to Manufacturing Processes.
Students and their instructor agreed that the class effectively targeted specific skills that had previously hindered student progress, and all students demonstrated improvement in both national and program level assessment measures.
Cristhian Vargas, 23, of Cranston was working second shift as a machine operator when he heard about the Fast Track to CNC Manufacturing program and saw it as an opportunity to increase his earnings.
“The work I was doing was heavy and it was a little dirty. I made most of my money from overtime,” he said.
Now Vargas is working on the first shift at Eaton Corp. – his targeted employer from early in the program – and earning $19 an hour. “I never find myself looking at the clock now because I’m doing something that I love,” he said. “It’s a very big change, and I’m very thankful. It’s the highest wage I have received at any of my jobs and I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep going.”
He is continuing with Phase 2 of the program and is only two classes shy of earning CCRI's Certificate in Advanced Manufacturing. He won’t stop there, either; he plans to enter CCRI’s Engineering associate degree program. “I wanted a career that includes problem-solving, creativity and thinking outside the box,” he said.
“Taking the Fast Track to CNC Manufacturing program gave me the skills to launch the beginning of my career,” Vargas said. “My expectations for the program were high. I’m satisfied to share that I got just what I expected and more.”
He said the leadership, guidance, coaching and preparation from faculty and staff aided in his success. “My most sincere ‘thank you’ goes to them, and you could be a part of it, too; if you enjoy working with machines, like problem solving and love creating, this could be the beginning of your future. From my personal unforgettable experience, I’d advise to be prepared to work hard for your own benefit and be ready to change your life.”
The Division of Workforce Partnerships will continue to identify opportunities for developing RI-BEST classes focused on career pathways in collaboration with workforce instructors and college faculty. In each case, the division’s team works with professors and instructors from the academic departments to design a program specific to a career path training, and the classes become a seamless part of the larger training.
“Our focus on Bridge programming, and RI-Best, is a central part of our effort to ensure that adult students are able to enter and advance in career track employment,” said Julian Alssid, vice president, Division of Workforce Partnerships. “Many adults such like Cristhian need help sharpening their skills. And teaching these skills in the context of a given career area, enhances their ability to succeed.”