By Karlha Velásquez Rivas
Alejandra Sinecio is senior program director of the National Able Network (NAN), an organization that helps with training and education in Douglas, Sarpy, and Washington counties. She spoke about helping adults find economic opportunities, focusing on low-income families, many of whom find it difficult to enter the job market.
The high demand for skilled labor means some companies require more than a simple high school diploma, she said. She encouraged job seekers to apply for a short-term program such as trade schools where they may acquire skills quickly and find gainful employment faster.
The General Educational Development (GED) test is an expeditious alternative for those who have not completed high school. There are several programs, including one at the Latino Center of the Midlands, that assist students in learning or reviewing materials for the four GED subjects; Social Studies, Literacy, Math, and Science. Aida Lamelas, coordinator of Adult Basic Education at the Latino Center said, “97% of companies accept people who have the GED to start a career.”
Lamelas is concerned that over 20% of Omaha’s Hispanic population does not complete high school. She urged the community to take advantage of this opportunity to acquire the GED certificate. A GED also helps students bridge into community college.
The Trades and College
Over the span of a career, an MCC graduate with an associate degree can expect to earn around $396,000 more than a worker with only a high school diploma. It is possible to earn up to $40,000 per year with an associate degrees that provides on-the-job skills. Metropolitan Community College Career Navigator Marie Hélène André helps guide students as they prepare for such careers through MMC’s trades programs, including construction and culinary.
MCC offers both specialized programs and general education classes so that students get a well-rounded education. MCC classes are more affordable than many schools at $64 per hour. They offer credit or non-credit classes, and there are several financial aid options even for undocumented students.
Omaha Public Schools emphasize preparing young people for working life with Career Education. School Counselor Gabrielle Rickley of Bryan High School highlighted the benefits of this program designed to help young people prepare for working life with an economically secure future. Rickey said that OPS also assists students who want to continue on to higher education apply for financial aid or loans such as FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) Another option presented is a military career.
There are a wide variety of options with Career Education including technical trades. “They have to attend classes in Personal Finance to learn how to manage money, pay taxes and create a business plan,” said Rickley. However, she stressed that they always focus on the interests of the students and knowing their goals.