If adults have to study basic skills before they start job training, most won’t make it. In Washington state, they can do both at the same time, reports NPR. Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, better known as I-BEST, is getting adult students into the workforce quickly. More than 20 states are trying the model.
Candy Benteu teaches child development at Green River Community College. Co-teacher Rachel Rogers teaches reading, math and English. The two work together to make sure students understand idioms.
“Candy would say these phrases like, ‘Fly by the seat of your pants.’ And I would interrupt, and I’d say, ‘Does that mean I’m throwing my pants up in the air and flying?’ And she would laugh and the students would laugh because that’s what they’re thinking,” Rogers says. “By my modeling that, it gives them permission that it is OK to ask questions and that’s the sign of an intelligent and a good student.”
Benteu and Rogers also role-play appropriate workplace behavior, those “soft skills” — such as how to work in a team, follow rules and show up on time — that are critical to success. They may seem obvious, but are not.
“We have lots of conversations about the way we dress and the way we smell. Too much perfume, too much incense, not enough deodorant,” Rogers says.
Like most adult ed students, I-BEST students often are high school dropouts who struggle with reading and math. Many don’t speak English fluently. At I-BEST, they can take community college courses that lead to certificates in nearly 200 fields such as medical billing, welding, auto mechanics building maintenance and more.
All programs must lead to jobs paying at least $13 an hour, which is considered a living wage in the state.
Students at Shoreline Community College learn about the physics of manual transmissions in class, then change into overalls to work on transmissions in the shop.
Today’s cars are complex, says instructor Mark Hankins. By the end of the program, “they can go out and do a brake job, they can do fluid replacement, they can do inspections. And those are the kind of jobs that there’s a big need for.”
C.J. Forza says his brain “just clicks with engines.” He dropped out of school in the 12th grade; he’s now 31. He loves cars so much he works part time in a mechanic shop already. Forza’s now learning the “why,” not just the “how,” of repairs.
“Instead of just guessing at what it is, I’m more able to figure out, OK, this issue can be caused by this, this or this,” he says.
Forza will earn a certificate in general auto mechanics in one year, boosting his pay from $10 an hour to $15.