Jeff Smith, Adult Basic Education director of the The Learning Connection, talks about the MATCH program helping people find careers during an interview on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jeff Smith, Adult Basic Education director of the The Learning Connection, talks about the MATCH program helping people find careers during an interview on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Program aims to help students find career path

Adult educators hope career-oriented class can help stoke interest in program

In recent years, Jeff Smith and his colleagues at The Learning Connection in Juneau have noticed a trend.

Smith, the Adult Basic Education director at TLC, said many of the organization’s classes are centered around preparing people to take tests such as the GED. Smith said it can be tough to convince people that those classes will really help them find what they want: a job.

“When we advertise a basic skills math class or a basic skills reading or writing class, a lot of people don’t think, ‘This is what I need,’ but as soon as we put it in the context of careers, people come out for it,” Smith said.

TLC — which is part of SERRC, an educational resource center for Alaska — and other adult education programs around the country are looking to involve more career preparation in adult education, and a nine-week class is coming to Juneau this fall to help jump-start that effort.

The MATCH program (which initially stood for Making Academic Training and Careers Happen), runs from Oct. 8-Dec. 6 and helps people begin their education with a job in mind and then build skills that relate to that job. The full name of the program is “MATCH — Career Readiness & Workplace Skills Program.”

Students begin by picking from 16 different career tracks, including health care, technology, tourism and others. From there, students will be provided with a workbook that is focused on their career path of choice. The classes will involve the whole group, working on developing general workplace skills and required math and reading topics. Smith said that these general skills are important, because when employers come to them to talk about what they’re looking for in an employee, they usually talk about how a person might fit into the workplace.

“They don’t talk about the job description,” Smith said. “They talk about those soft skills, knowing how to relate interpersonally at work, show up on time, be reliable. Those kind of things, we’re going to be stressing every day.”

Individual work and assignments will be catered to that student’s career path of choice, Smith said.

Tuition is $150, but scholarships are available and students will not be turned away because of a lack of funds. Smith said most of their programs are free, but they decided to put a fee on the MATCH program to make a little bit of money back that they’ve spent on it while also giving students more of an incentive to complete the program. The program is mostly funded by the Alaska Department of Labor and the Juneau Community Foundation, Smith said.

Registration is open until Oct. 1, and classes will begin Oct. 8. Smith said they have room for 20 students in the program. People can go to to apply, and can call 586-5718 or visit TLC at 210 Ferry Way.

It isn’t only for people without a high school education, Smith said.

“Maybe you have a high school diploma, but you’re just spinning your wheels,” Smith said. “This could help provide a path for you.”

Students in this program will have access to TLC’s other programs, including GED preparation, employment skills workshops, trades training and more. TLC has new student orientation every Friday at 11 a.m., open to people 16 and up who are interested in learning more about TLC’s programs.

Smith said they hope to do the program in the spring if they have enough interest.

“We only really have this bubble that we’re aware of,” he said. “I never thought I was going to be an adult education teacher. You just increase your bubble a little bit, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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