Onward and upward: adult learning and workforce development

The market for job-seekers remains excellent — as long as candidates are armed with the skills employers need. This, according to Granite State employers, is the ongoing challenge.

Luckily, there are a number of adult learning options throughout the state that can train workers in these highly sought-after skills, leading to new, good-paying jobs. We reached out to three experts who can help provide a path to these opportunities:

  • Steve Kossakoski, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School
  • Lauren Osowski, Director of Adult Education at the Adult Learning Center
  • Tamara VonGeorge, Ph.D., Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Granite State College.

Steve Kossakoski, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School:

In what ways are your programs focused on working adult students?

Kossakoski: “Students can access courses and instructors wherever they can connect to the Internet. We are an open enrollment school which means that students can begin working in a course on any day of the year. And, students can work at a pace that meets their needs. For example, if a student struggles with math and needs more time and support to complete an assignment, we can make that happen. Students who are New Hampshire residents under the age of 21, and have not completed a high school diploma can attend our high school free of charge. For adults, our tuition fee structure is designed to allow them to create a schedule that will help them meet their goals. Adults only pay for the courses they need based on when they will have time to learn.”

What makes VLACS different from other online learning programs?  

Kossakoski: “Relationships and flexibility. Our instructors care about their students and take the time to learn about their needs and goals.  We also understand that adults have busy lives so we designed a learning model that can be accessed anywhere at any time.  Our pricing model is also flexible.  Some of our students register for four weeks to refresh their math skills while others may enroll for two months to complete an English course. 

“We have an exciting announcement for adult learners. This spring we will be rolling out new career-oriented programming for adults.  Students will have the opportunity to earn credit through work-based experiences or by enrolling in courses leading to industry certifications in technology, business, and healthcare.  We’re very excited about these new offerings, and we look forward to helping our students meet their career goals. Information will be posted on our website in the coming months. If you would like to get updates sent directly to your email inbox, please send an email to adulted@vlacs.org and ask to be added to the newsletter list.”

Lauren Osowski, Director of Adult Education at the Adult Learning Center:

What type of certification courses do you offer, and how can that help my career?

Osowski: “We offer certification courses in all the Microsoft products, medical coding, medical billing, and accounting. The certificate courses have flexible scheduling, including evenings, and are self-paced. The instructors are experienced and can work one-on-one to guide students through the course material. The certificates are in in-demand fields that can help students advance their careers or begin a new career.” 

What programs do you offer that will help me prepare for college?

Osowski: “We have an excellent relationship with Nashua Community College. They have provided an office on campus for our College and Career Navigator to work with adult education students who need assistance with the transition to college. The Navigator conducts workshops to teach students the non-academic knowledge and soft skills they need for college — note taking, time management, learning styles, digital literacy, college culture, etc. We offer developmental and transitional academic courses for students who need to brush up on their skills before moving into college level courses. Additionally, our Adult Education Counselor also organizes two annual fairs at our center. The fairs give students an opportunity to connect with colleges and training providers as they consider their next steps.”

How can the Adult Learner Services program help me advance my career?

Osowski: “Students can work with a tutor one-on-one to prepare for their HiSET test, which is a necessary credential in today’s workforce. Because the program is individualized, students are able to focus on a specific subject area. Additionally, students can get personalized lessons to help advance their career skills in a particular area. For example, a student that needed to pass an exam for certification at her job worked with a tutor to review the vocabulary, information, and strategies needed in order to pass the exam. With the individualized approach to learning, students and tutors are able to set and meet short-term learning goals more quickly.”

Tamara VonGeorge, Ph.D., Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Granite State College:

What type of guidance can you offer a prospective student who is considering a career change?

VonGeorge: “Granite State College offers prospective students the opportunity to work with a career counselor before choosing a major or applying to the college. We offer free career assessments and individualized advising to assist prospective students with identifying their current skills, values and interests and a career goal and academic major that is a good fit for them. Once enrolled students have unlimited access to career advising as well as opportunities to build relevant experience through work-study and work experience programs.”

What type of professional development programs do you offer, and how can that help my career?

VonGeorge: “Granite State College Learning Solutions works with community partners to create tailored professional development that helps employees thrive in the workforce and results in real-world application through a connected, active learning approach. We offer a variety of opportunities that focus on knowledge, skills, and competencies related to management, leadership, and project management, and both participants and employers have noted positive gains after attending our sessions. Participants and employers often tell us that they appreciate the increased confidence, skills, real-world tools and strategies, and community building that happens as a result of our sessions.”

What is the difference between a credit and noncredit course?

VonGeorge: “Credit courses are courses that meet degree requirements. While the majority of these courses can be taken by a non-degree student for professional development or transfer to another institution, they are intended to help students earn their degree. Undergraduate courses are primarily four credits each.”