Fleming College expands the work and education choices for Haliburton County residents
A young carpenter improving her math to get ahead in her career. A dad finishing what he started decades ago. A mom juggling a family, part-time work and financial struggles. A new Canadian upgrading her skills to meet course requirements for a practical nursing program.
These are just some of the people in Haliburton County who have turned to Skills on Demand: Work & Academic Upgrading—a flexible work and academic upgrading program of Fleming College, designed to help adult learners reach their educational and career goals.
The free program appeals to adults with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.
Learners can choose courses in a variety of subjects including math, computers, communication and sciences.
Learners register for Fleming’s Skills on Demand program for a variety of reasons, explains Marion Willemsen, professor and program coordinator. Some are looking to finish high school or get the courses they need to get into college. Some work towards their Academic and Career Entrance (ACE) certificate—a Grade 12 equivalent that opens the door to college programs and apprenticeships. Others want to learn new skills to advance in their careers or fulfill a commitment they made to themselves. While their reasons vary, nearly all the people in the program face the challenge of adding school to an already-long list of work and family responsibilities.
“Learning becomes easier without challenges or barriers,” says Willemsen, which is why Fleming offers flexible options in an environment that is welcoming and inspiring.
Skills on Demand is delivered in small groups or through one-on-one support. Training can be taken full-time or part-time, in the day or evening – anything to accommodate work and family responsibilities. Program flexibility allows learners to start any time and provides access to multiple learning options: learning from home or work, in the classroom or online – in any combination.
Before learners attend classes, they complete an essential skills assessment, so they know where they need to start – there is no need to complete courses in things you already know. Program staff work with learners to determine their existing skills, learning style and needs.
“Sometimes learners don’t know what their goal is until they’ve done the assessment and looked at the options,” says Willemsen.
“We accept learners at any level and create an individual learning plan with each person. This plan helps them reach their goals. We always encourage each of them to set a goal so they are creating a timeline for themselves that is achievable.”
Opportunity is a two-way street and learners are in control of their own direction, Willemsen explains. And for many learners in the work and academic program, that more than rings true. As a professor, she has witnessed student success. “People have grit, work hard with determination and a real commitment to their goals.”
Like a mom who had to take a different route to complete her training during the COVID lockdown. She was working online but her kids were using the ‘bandwidth’ in the house because she was homeschooling them.
Students aren’t the only ones enriched by the program. Instructors like Willemsen, also feel a deep connection to the people they help through the program.
“There’s nothing better than helping somebody who wants to better their life and career goals by upgrading their skills. A lot of people are unsure when they start, but that’s what we’re here for. The best way to begin is just to get your foot in the door” says Willemsen.
Fleming Skills on Demand also works with other services such as Fleming CREW Employment Centre and the John Howard Society. Together, the partners offer community-based programming that helps people build skills and connect to the local workforce or go further with their education.
One new program we are offering together is a five-day bootcamp called STRIVE. This program focuses on supporting people as they prepare for work. The program was designed after local employers expressed concerns about some missing skills in the Haliburton community.
STRIVE is also a great program for employers who are thinking about offering on-the-job training. “We can help employers with retention which is important when employers are struggling to find employees,” says Willemsen.
“We can also help employers and their staff. We have employers who send their workers to us to gain skills. In one case, there was a young carpenter who was not offered a promotion because she needed stronger math skills so she could do measurements that required her to add, subtract and multiply fractions. Her employer sent her to take the program one day a week and she successfully finished it.”
“We also provide training for people who need to learn to use Zoom or other computer skills. With COVID we have learned that not everyone has the computer skills they need to access programs, services, training, or work. We can help make that happen.
In some cases, people want to take training but they don’t have access to technology or the Internet. We can help with that too! We make sure people have what they need to access the training they want.
We want people to have fair access to computer skills and technology because it is so important – especially now. This past year we have been jumping through all sorts of hoops to try to reach people so they can continue with their program.”
Reflecting on Willemsen’s years of educating people, she highlights the importance of developing a mutual respect with learners and encouraging them on their journey.
“As instructors, we’ll do whatever we can to help our learners succeed, whether it’s one-on-one support, loaning them a laptop and even helping them with their Internet connection,” said Willemsen.
To learn more about this Fleming program, visit https://flemingcollege.ca/academic-upgrading.