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Develop an Adult Education Program

Chances are good that if your institution is located in or near a low-income or underrepresented-minority community, many residents will have low educational attainment levels as well as limited access to computers and digital skills. By the same token, most higher-ed institutions require at least a high school diploma for most of its positions.How can you reconcile these factors? Establishing a program that helps adults gain digital access and literacy skills, and provides an opportunity for high school diploma or GED completion increases the number of residents who can be eligible for jobs in the institution and with its major service vendors. These are some general guidelines for designing a successful adult education and digital literacy program:

Establish a training location in the community

Residents may feel they are unwelcome on campus, or may be unsure of how to navigate campus space. Locating an adult education program in the community your institution wishes to partner with is an important bridge-building effort. 

Don’t reinvent any service wheels 

Most universities do not have existing adult literacy programming, so connect with a well regarded regional literacy program to see if they are willing to bring their programming to your site. Many service nonprofits have performance metrics they must meet under their own funding agreements, as well as specific outreach goals that align with your institution’s strategy, and an opportunity to expand their programming to a new location may be a benefit for them as well.

Offer a computer lab for residents to use

Most low-income neighborhoods have low rates of home-based internet access. Your site can join the local library in offering a place for adults to get online, access email, work on job applications, and increase their digital literacy. An open computer lab also provides opportunities for social connections in communities where poverty reinforces isolation.

In our computer lab, jobseekers come for help getting their resumes and cover letters in shape, including transitioning paper documents to electronic ones and getting help making those documents the best they can be. In a job marketplace where almost 100% of job postings are online, digital skills are survival skills, and so having a lab staffed with workers who can teach job search skills and offer support with filling out online applications is a crucial part of the programming. This resource helps participants build the social capital they need to connect with jobs with our institution as well around the city generally.

Staff your computer lab with a trainer from the community

This is another important bridge-builder. When residents can learn from somebody they feel looks like them and  who understands their experience, they are more likely to keep coming back to take advantage of support programming.

Give adult learners and jobseekers in your programs access to your institution’s HR personnel

We have a weekly open session for one-on-one appointments in which participants can get help with searching for job opportunities, filling out applications, writing resumes and cover letters, and getting practice with interview skills.  

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