ANDERSON — It's no secret that education and having up-to-date job skills are key elements to getting a better job or finding a new one if you've been laid off.
Also well known is that Madison County's unemployment rate is higher than Indiana's statewide average, and that county residents lag behind their neighbors in the area of post-secondary education, said Mark J. Finger, director of the Madison County Education Coalition.
Only 24 percent of county residents have some sort of post-secondary education, compared to 35 percent in Delaware County and 60 percent in Hamilton County, he said. That's why the coalition joined forces with area colleges, universities and other organizations on Thursday at the Anderson Public Library.
The goal was to help adults learn about the options available to them, ranging from how to get started, to figuring out things like child care and financial aid.
As an organization, "we have a responsibility to people of all grade levels," Finger said. "We also want to help people who started college and never finished a degree to those who were never able to attend college when they were younger."
Whether it was the biting cold, delayed school openings or transportation difficulties, attendance at the event from 1 to 7 p.m. was disappointingly sparse. By late afternoon, Finger was still hoping the evening would bring a few more interested people to the library's third-floor Chief Anderson Room.
About 20 people attended the last adult education fair 18 months ago.
"We're hoping this picks up today, It is hard to get the word out and the weather hasn't helped," Finger said. "The big thing is we want to help people re-engage in education. Our goal is to have the first dialogue so they (adults) can start that post-secondary experience."
Schools and organizations represented at the fair included Ivy Tech Community College, Western Governors University, Anderson University School of Adult Learning, Indiana Wesleyan University, Purdue University College of Technology in Anderson, the Excel Center, the Indiana State Student Assistance Commission, Huffer Memorial Children's Center, WorkOne Anderson and the Hinds Career Center in Elwood.
A table manned by representatives from the Hinds Career Center and WorkOne Anderson was chocked full of job opportunities in health care, transportation and logistics, plus certification programs designed to help students taking advantage of these skill building classes meet new skill requirements.
And those certificate programs work in helping graduates get both more job offers and higher starting pay, career representatives said.
Not only that, said WorkOne Academic Career Counselor Dan Denniston, the agency can assist clients in evaluating their current skills as well as exploring new careers.
For those who have recently been laid off, the goal is help them find a new position, said WorkOne Career Coach Alan Janney.
For people working at a minimum wage job "our main goal for working individuals is to help get them on a career pathway," he added.
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