Options for adult education go beyond the classroom into technical education

Superintendent Diane Gullett listens during a meeting of the Marion County Public School Board at the MTI auditorium in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

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Posted June 24, 2022 | By Caroline Brauchler

The Marion County School Board has approved a continuation grant application to the Florida Department of Education to continue its sponsoring of adult education.

If accepted, the grant will provide over $570,000 to The Adult Basic Education (ABE), General Educational Development (GED) and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs. These allow for adult students to not only obtain an equivalent to a high school diploma, but to also figure out which career pathways might become available to them by doing so.

“I think it’s becoming more and more embraced [to pursue] career and technical education,” said Board Member Nancy Thrower. “Especially as the price of traditional college and university continues to skyrocket and with the associated student loans that are incurred.”

Marion Technical College, in coordination with local high schools and community programs, will purchase supplies and curriculum academic programs as they see fit.

“It will be materials and supplies that are directly related to the vocational programs that need the support, and that will be up to this staff to determine and then put that on a future agenda for the Board to approve,” Thrower said.

The programs additionally support students who do not speak English as a first language, and in turn have struggled in the work force due to barriers caused by communication. These skills will help the employability of many candidates who have received education as adults, especially those who have received degrees in other countries but have been unable to find comparable work in the United States due to language barriers, according to MCPS.

“This application will discuss how the institution will align with Florida’s vision for adult education to hold learners at the center and promote full participation in the workforce, result in credentials of value and close the equity and achievement gaps,” according to MCPS.

In addition to the resources and curriculum decided upon by MTC, MCPS said that the grant will also fund the salaries of four paraprofessionals, two full-time instructors, one career lab specialist, and one career education facilitator.

These staff members will be crucial in the part of the program that provides guidance and advising services to students and directs them towards an area of academic or technical education that would be best suited for the trajectory of their career.

The motion to approve the grant application was passed unanimously by all board members, including Thrower. She said that not only would this funding benefit adults who go back to school, but also the high school students who seek an alternative route to the traditional university path.

“It can be a dual enrollment opportunity where students are still in high school, like we have with College of Central Florida for Westport High,” Thrower said. “All of those partnerships are really exciting to me, because that’s going to give our students number one, a much earlier window into the world of opportunity post school, and then hopefully will lead to relevance of what they’re currently learning in their regular school day.”

Thrower emphasized the importance of students knowing their options when it comes to higher education and said that money does not always have to be a barrier when it comes to improving your chances at landing a good job.

“Now there are so many options in between to be able to walk out with a trade, career and certification,” Thrower said. “As you’re graduating high school that’s something that’s so tremendously valuable.”