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'1,000 GED Campaign' program aims to boost workforce participation

The "1,000 GED Campaign" program
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
The "1,000 GED Campaign" program offers adults without a high school diploma a 10-week GED education and a pathway to jobs in construction and health care industries.

A high school diploma is often a requisite for a decent job, let alone one that can provide a middle-class lifestyle. And yet the Twin Cities is currently home to an estimated 100,000 adults who don’t have a high school diploma or a GED. For the most part, that means those people will struggle not only to get a job; it means they can't even participate in certain employment training programs to improve their career prospects.

To make it easier for people willing to attain marketable employment skills, Summit Academy OIC — a community-based vocational school in north Minneapolis — has launched the “1,000 GED Campaign,” a 10-week high school diploma equivalency program. The initiative, which is tailored to get participants to earn certificates in the construction and health care industries, is meant to graduate 1,000 people in the next two years.      

Last year, as Summit Academy experimented it as a pilot program, Louis King, the school’s president and CEO, saw a few notable results: Not only did participants complete the program at higher rates than the general student population, they also performed better on the pre-entry tests for the school's health care and construction programs.

“As a result, we are now running two classes with this new model in place,” King said. “We now increased the completion rate for the last two classes to over 60 percent. People who have made it through have gone to do such things as construction, health care and electricians.” 

King added that participants often come to the GED program unemployed or making about $10,000 a year on average. Most of those who end up completing the 30-week training (10 weeks of GED and 20 weeks of one of the career training programs the school offers), however, end up making $35,000 in their first year.

The “1,000 GED Campaign” program — which enrolls 500 students a year — is funded through various sources, including the state of Minnesota, U.S. Bank, Thrivent Financial, the Otto Bremer Trust and the workforce initiative MSPWin.

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