Program offers keys to success

news@enquirerherald.comJanuary 20, 2013 

— Walter Gilmore has held a variety of jobs, from shipping and receiving clerk to metal fabricator and chemical operator. But he needs more of an edge in today’s job market.

“At my age, I have to make myself appeal to employers,” said Gilmore, 52, who is staying at the Lighthouse homeless shelter at Clover’s New Beginnings Baptist Church.

Gilmore is among about 10 adults who last week began taking WorkKeys training at the church — part of a new partnership with the Tri-District/Chester Adult Education program.

WorkKeys is a system for measuring, communicating and improving common skills required for success in the workplace. The skills — which include basic math and reading and also cover the ability to follow instructions and find information — can be tested and measured on different levels.

Job searchers who complete the WorkKeys assessment may earn one of four certification levels — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — to demonstrate their proficiency. The bronze level demonstrates a skill level for 16 percent of jobs, for example, while a platinum-certified job-seeker has the skill level of eligibility for 99 percent of jobs.

Many employers now require a certain level of WorkKeys certification before they consider an applicant for a job, said Kenneth Gaither, director of Tri-District/Chester Adult Education.

Gaither said WorkKeys is offered at the adult education program’s sites in Clover, York, Fort Mill and Chester County. But, he said, not everyone has the means or the motivation to seek training at the center’s sites.

“We want to take our story and our information to the people, wherever they are,” Gaither said. “We want to work with you to find the success that you want.”

Adult ed instructor Chris Hemphill, who promoted the idea for the outreach and is teaching the WorkKeys classes at New Beginnings, said WorkKeys certification can help improve self esteem among job seekers.

“They need something to hold onto,” Hemphill said, referring to the certification. “We want to give people hope. And then maybe they will come to the main (adult ed) campus and shoot for their GED.”

The Rev. Sam Thompson, founder and pastor of New Beginnings, said the training helps “people who are maybe not as fortunate to have a pedigree. It’s an opportunity for someone to benefit themselves in spite of their condition.”

Nathan Whisonant, 21, a Lighthouse shelter resident who is taking the WorkKeys training at the church, said he hopes it helps him find a better future. He has worked in retail, but became homeless when he was 19.

“It really helps as far as keeping your mind open to things you didn’t know,” Whisonant said.

Gaither and Hemphill said they plan to gauge the interest in the outreach after about three months to determine the program’s next step. However, Gaither said he wants the training outreach to become permanent.

“We want them to see that we are willing to go that extra mile,” Gaither said, referring to potential adult ed students. “I want to be a visible part of the community.”

Want to know more?

WorkKeys classes will be offered at New Beginnings Baptist Church, 706 N. Main St., Clover, from 2 to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays for a three-week period through March to prepare students for assessments.

WorkKeys assessments at New Beginnings will be given on Feb. 4 and March 4. Classes for the next test begin the day of each assessment. For details, call the church at 803-222-0636.

Tri-District Adult Education, 420 Knox St., Clover, which also offers WorkKeys training and assessment, is open 8:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. Lab hours are noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Details, 803-810-8440.

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