(BEDFORD) – Having a high school diploma is essential for any adult in our community. It opens up opportunities for residents to improve their job prospects, income achievement, and a better quality of life.
Statistics show a person with a high school diploma will earn an average of at least $8,000 more per year than one without. Of course, once a high school diploma is achieved, there are more education and skill opportunities to increase those earnings further.
Where does Lawrence County stand? Data from the Indiana Business Research Center’s American Community Survey concludes that of the residents in Lawrence County between 18-64 years of age, 10% do not possess a high school diploma, HSE (High School Equivalency), or GED. That equates to more than 2500 working-age adults.
In the state Fiscal year 2018, Lawrence County achieved 38 HSEs. Only 18 of these were attained through local channels. WorkOne was having a difficult time marketing to and attracting those that needed a diploma in the area. In 2019, the Lawrence County Economic Growth Council Workforce Coalition (WC) set out to improve these stats for our community as part of an Indiana Department of Workforce Development Skill Up 3 grant. The WC partnered with Vincennes University (the locally contracted HSE instruction provider) and WorkOne (the local Department of Workforce Development liaison) to outline a process and start spreading awareness of Lawrence County opportunities to earn a HSE.
After launching a marketing/awareness campaign including yard signs, digital signs, billboards, Facebook and Google ads, 47 Lawrence County residents achieved their equivalencies between August 2019 and February 2020. That is two and a half times the entire previous year, trending toward 100 HSEs by June 30.
Unfortunately, COVID halted progress temporarily, but classes are back in full swing as seven more residents completed their HSEs in July. During August nine completed, and twenty full-time students are currently working on achieving their diploma. In fact, demand was so high, there were two orientations in August and interest remains strong.
“Achieving a high school diploma or equivalency is critical to the residents in our community,” says Joe Timbrook, Director of Career Development with the Lawrence County Workforce Coalition. “It will lead to more financial stability for our citizens and open many more doors of opportunity. The Lumina Foundation and the State of Indiana have a goal of 60% post-secondary attainment by 2025 and Lawrence County hovers around 30%. This diploma achievement can be just the first step in a bright and productive future.”
What is the process? Simple. A website – www.getmyhse.org was created for Lawrence County residents to apply. The applicant enters three basic pieces of information that go directly to local instructor Travis Malone. Interested residents can also call (812) 890-4337. Travis and his team personally contacts each person by text, phone, or email to set up an orientation. Orientation and initial Test of Basic Education (TABE) are done in person so instructors can assess where students need to focus their learning. After evaluation, there is an option to continue with online classes or to meet in a more traditional classroom setting. When students are ready to test for the HSE, arrangements are made to complete testing at a local facility. The $95 cost of the test is waived, thanks again to the Department of Workforce Development and the Workforce Coalition.