GED can bring added opportunities

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By Tom Wilmoth

    Within a few years, 70 percent of job openings in Virginia will require a technical skills certificate, which requires a high school diploma or GED credential.

    That's leading more people to go back to school in this area.
    Patsy Arnold Martin, instructional coordinator for Adult Education for Bedford County Public Schools, said some adult students enter the free classes because they know it can lead to a better job.
    The GED exams are offered twice a year and one will be offered in November. Martin said it's time for those who want to take it to begin registering.
    “They can take it for free if they pass the pre-GED test,” she said. That pre-GED test is also offered for free by the adult education department and pre-registration isn't required. The cost for the GED test is $58 for all subjects.
    The GED includes tests in math, reading, writing, social studies and  science.

Beginning in January 2014, the current tests will be invalid because new tests will be introduced.
    “It’s really important to get them in within the next two years if they’ve (already) passed (some of the GED tests),” she said.
    The BCPS adult education program provides instruction in all five subject areas of the GED test. “We also provide instruction at the pre-GED level, if someone’s skills are not up to the high school level,” she said. An assessment is given when the student first enrolls. She said often, with a little review, a student can move from the middle school to high school level.
    The program can also provide instruction in English as a second language.
    As of this week, 70 students are enrolled in the school system’s adult education programs.
    “We find the students to be very motivated,” she said. And even in cases where they have difficult circumstances to overcome or problems getting to class because of transportation or child care, “they get to class and are very focused,” she said.
    “Many students have been told, ‘there’s a promotion here for you but you have to get your GED in order to get the promotion’.” Martin said. “Some are looking for full-time work and can’t even get an interview without this.”
    Martin said some adult students go to the classes because their children are in high school and they want to be a role model for them. “One student, whose daughter is in college now, wants to get her GED before her daughter graduates,” she said.
    And some just want the personal satisfaction of getting the GED because they regret having not done so earlier.
    “A large number of our students go on to CVCC or Virginia Western,” she said.
    Last year attendance was up, but this year it is a little lower.
    “We’re a little surprised,” she said. “I don’t know if people are getting discouraged (about job opportunities).”
    When a student passes, they receive an official transcript and certificate from the state of Virginia. In the spring, BCPS holds a GED recognition ceremony in which students are given a certificate from the school system.
    Martin said according to information from the state, workers in Virginia earn $7,000 more per year if they have their high school equivalency certificate. “ I think in this economy that’s really important,” she said. “There are so many more opportunities if they have this.”
    Currently, almost one in four adults in this region does not have the required credential to pursue the technical skills jobs. And in an uncertain economy, those without a high school equivalency find it increasingly difficult to secure employment of any kind.

Local classes
    At the Lake Christian Ministries building a morning class is offered on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. until noon.  At Moneta Elementary School an evening class is offered on Monday and Thursday from 6-9 p.m.  Sally Noble teaches the morning class, with assistance from Joan Crouch; Kathryn Smith teaches the evening class with assistance from Mary Mills. Both classes provide individualized instruction and have open enrollment throughout the year.  Pre-registration is not required and students may join the class at anytime.
    Additional classes in Bedford County are offered at Big Island Elementary (Tuesday 5:30-8:30 p.m.), Forest Elementary (Tuesday-Thursday 6-9 p.m.), Montvale Public Library (Tuesday 6:30-9:30 p.m.), New London Elementary (Monday-Wednesday 6-9 p.m.), and in Bedford at BSTC (Monday-Wednesday 9 a.m. – noon and 6-9 p.m.).  
    All GED preparation classes in Bedford County are open to any adult 18 years of age or older not enrolled in a school system, who does not have a high school diploma or who demonstrates functioning at or below the high school level. There is no charge to attend; all materials and books are provided.  In addition to GED Preparation, these classes offer Adult Basic Education (ABE).   ABE instruction teaches basic skills of reading, writing, and mathematics. English as a Second Language (ESL) is also taught to speakers of other languages when required. 
    These classes are jointly funded by Bedford County Schools, Adult Education of Central Virginia (ACE), Virginia’s Office of Adult Education & Literacy, and the Federal Workforce Initiative. 
    For more information visit the Web site http://www.bedford.k12.va.us/bstc/adult_ed.htm, contact Patsy Arnold Martin at patsymartin@bedford.k12.va.us, or call BSTC at 540/586-3933.