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Adult in Search of New Skills? These Training Providers Can Help

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Cynthia Kastel, of New Castle, was a stay-at-home mom. Owen Kamin, of Georgetown, had a career in HVAC ahead of him.
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What do they have in common? They both wanted a change and found it in programs offered at adult learning centers throughout the state. Today Kastel, 54, is finishing a program to become a licensed clinical nurse, and Kamin, 21, is an apprentice about to get his journeyman papers as an electrician.

Cynthia Kastel

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These days, it is almost unheard of for a person to keep the same job for his or her entire career, but making a change often requires a new set of skills and possibly certifications. Delaware’s vocational schools, Delaware Technical Community College and several nonprofits and stand-alone programs are available throughout the state to help. Classes can often be taken on a full and part-time basis and run from quick certifications to full degrees.

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“If you’re not interested in a two-year degree and want to gain a skill, we have many programs to gain knowledge and credentials,” says Paul Morris, associate vice president for workforce development and community education at Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC). These programs run anywhere from six weeks to six months. DTCC has 14 programs in healthcare alone that offer state or national credentials, he says.
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Not part of the DTCC system, but worth looking into if you are interested in tech, are programs like Code Differently, Zip Code Wilmington and Tech Elevator (which offers classes online at Tech Elevator.com). These nonprofit programs provide certifications in high-demand computer coding and programming fields. The cost ranges from free to $12,000 and programs run from 12 weeks to more than a year. Most of them also offer job placement help.
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“[Graduates] have access to a plethora of corporate partners,” says James Thompson, a data engineer who graduated from Zip Code Wilmington. He says he tripled his salary after graduating from the 12-week coding boot camp. “Basically, [Zip Code] grooms you and then they sit you in front of [employers].”
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Fast Trainings, Good Wages
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The time these programs take can be a huge factor for adults with bills to pay. Sometimes a quick intro program is enough to get you started.
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Kastel launched her current career with a five-week certification program at the Delaware Skills Center to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). It was a fast way to get working, she says. Certification courses are available throughout the state in areas like business, culinary arts, computer programing, healthcare, public service and transportation and can cost anywhere from $150 to $20,000 depending on the subject matter. Many of the certifications, like Kastel’s CNA, are for entry-level positions.
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But what if you want something more, or it’s just not feasible to stop working to go to school? Maybe an apprenticeship is the way to go.
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Run by the Department of Labor through the vocational schools, apprenticeship programs allow students to earn while they learn. Registered apprentices are sponsored by the employees and the state for the 8,000 hours (generally four years) of work and class time.

Owen Kamin

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Apprentices work during the day to receive on-the-job training and attend school at night at one of the state’s vocational schools. As their skills increase, so do their wages. One instructor tells of a student making $70,000 a year before he finished. Kamin also says he’s earning a pretty good living while going through the apprenticeship program.
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There are apprenticeship programs in the hospitality industry, carpentry, welding, HVAC, auto mechanic, electrical, administrative assistance and software development, to name a few. If you’re not sure what field is right for you, resources exist to help you with that decision.
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“We’ve created a series of on-ramp courses that really are exploratory,” says Jeremy McEntire, assistant director of adult education for POLYTECH Adult Education near Dover. The idea behind these courses at POLYTECH and the other vocational schools is to give a person the basic skills to get a job and join an apprenticeship program. “We can get you a job in one semester.”
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Getting Funds for Training

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Funding is often a roadblock for many adults seeking a change, but shouldn’t be, says Michael Kittel, principal of the Adult Education Division at the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District. Often there is scholarship and grant money available to pay for classes. There are even some instances of funding to help cover daily expenses. “Don’t be dissuaded by cost,” he says.
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For example, the expanded SEED (Student Excellence Equals Degree) program pays for tuition at DTCC. This funding program requires that a person has graduated from a Delaware school and lived in Delaware for at least five years. There is no age limit and after the first semester, recipients are allowed to go to school part-time so they can continue working while attending school.
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Check websites for the Delaware Department of Labor, DTCC, Sussex Tech, POLYTECH and New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District for adult classes. Talk to people running these programs. They are all set up to provide help in getting started, says Kittel. “It’s a great opportunity,” says Kastel. The tuition for her nursing degree was more than $13,000 and was covered entirely by the Department of Labor.
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