December 2, 2020

Addition of online course format expands program access

WorkReadyNH, the tuition-free professional development program for job-seekers and career-builders offered through the Community College System of New Hampshire, is enrolling students for 2021, with day and evening classes now online.

“We had never offered classes online before, but within five weeks of Covid shutting everything down, we rolled out our first online classes and we’ve been doing it since,” said Dawn Hamdi, WorkReadyNH Director at Great Bay Community College. “And when everything reopens and we can get back to our campus, we still plan to do both in-person and online.”

WorkReadyNH teaches essential soft skills to help students become better job candidates and more productive and valuable employees, including how to enhance a resume and prepare for a job interview, as well as workplace math, reading and graphic literacy.

The enhanced online program is geared toward any New Hampshire resident who is 16 or older, including people entering the workforce for the first time or those who are unemployed or underemployed. Participants who complete the program receive a WorkReadyNH certificate from their community college and a National Career Readiness Certificate, administered by ACT, that signals to employers they have the necessary skills to succeed.

With the new online format, sessions run for three weeks with 20 hours of classes per week; approximately 10 of those hours are on Zoom with an instructor and other students and 10 hours are as independent study. Classes are available in the morning, afternoon, and evening, and are capped at 10 students per class.

There is no charge for the non-credit class.

“By offering classes at a variety of start times, we are targeting people who perhaps are already working but want to enhance their skills. We want to accommodate everyone,” Hamdi said. “And with everything online, transportation issues that might have been a barrier before are no longer an issue.”

Before the pandemic, when the New Hampshire unemployment rate was 2.4 percent, the classes at Great Bay Community College were generally full, with 15 to 18 students in each class.

After the pandemic when unemployment soared, enrollment in the new online classes dropped to less than 10. Enrollment grew again in the fall, with waiting lists for some classes. Hamdi expects more will fill up as New Hampshire residents discover that classes are available online and at a variety of start times.

Great Bay and other community colleges are prepared to add classes or adjust schedules based on need and demand. “If the numbers start climbing, we will accommodate that,” Hamdi said.

The classes are paid for by a New Hampshire Job Training Fund grant.

Amid the uncertain future of New Hampshire’s employment outlook because of the pandemic, one certainty is the need for employees with well-rounded workplace skills. People who complete the WorkReadyNH program are always prepared to succeed, Hamdi said.

In addition, the classes also create community at a time when community is needed most.

“A lot of times people are home, unemployed and applying for jobs online. Their self-esteem and self-confidence dwindles as they apply for a job and apply for a job and never hear back,” she said.

“When you come into this room, on campus or online, you realize you are part of a group that is very much in the same position you are in. And we always tell them, ‘Pat yourself on the back, because you are here. You’ve given yourself the gift of time to make a positive change in your life.’”