ST. JOHNSBURY — Creative Workforce Solutions (CWS) has honored St. Johnsbury Academy’s Adult Education Program with a Community Partnership Award. The award recognizes local businesses that support and assist community members accessing the workforce. Marina Cole, director of the Adult Education Program at SJA, accepted the award on behalf of the school on Sept. 28.
“Because this award is given by CWS members who are really familiar with our Adult Education Program, earning this award is especially meaningful,” said Cole.
CWS’s mission around the state and in the St Johnsbury area has always been to help Vermonters experiencing barriers to get back into the workforce. During the presentation, Todd Gratton, Business Account manager for CWS, said that SJA offers “the highest level of adult education I think I have ever seen in the state of Vermont. You bend over backward to make sure your students get into classes they need to take. These classes run the gamut from LNA courses to electrical, to baking classes.”
SJA was also recognized for developing training that meets the community’s specific needs.
During the pandemic, SJA’s adult education classes have seen a large upswing in students enrolling in online courses. So far, students have taken 57 online courses in 2020, more online classes than in any other year of the Adult Education Program’s existence, according to Cole. The majority of those have been in the health sector, with other popular courses falling into categories of technology, veterinary studies, and business and education classes.
The success of the program can be credited, in part, to the vast learning opportunities. Cole describes the program as having three strands. The first strand is life enrichment. These courses are fun and might be considered a life interest, like cooking or learning a new language. Fees from these classes help to fund the other strands.
The second strand is workforce development and training. The classes might include customer service, leadership classes, or technical classes like welding or electricity.
The third strand is employer-contracted classes, where employers contact the department with a unique training need. The employer might say, “We need to train 25 employees in this content area.” Cole would then follow up, find a qualified instructor, partner to develop the curriculum, and then deliver the training at the employer’s worksite. By working with SJA’s Adult Education Program, employers can take advantage of grant opportunities from the Vermont Department of Labor to funding training or off set wages for trainees.
Cole said, “We are able to write grants for training partnerships, so that’s a great benefit for businesses small or large who work with us.”
Headmaster Dr. Sharon Howell said, “This award is a tribute to the passionate efforts of Marina Cole, and to the school’s strong commitment to and belief in the community-wide benefits of life-long education. Marina’s dedication to building the Academy’s programs, along with her creativity, initiative, and collaborative approach, has made them a powerful model for others that we’re proud to offer.”