St. Francois County’s unemployment rate was 8.3% in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher than in November 2008.
Two UniTec employees — Adult Education Supervisor Justin Marler and Adult Education Literacy Supervisor Stacy Snider— want to bring that percentage down. They want people to know the local career and technical education center is here to help — not just with tuition, career determination, applications and training through night classes, but with transportation and housing assistance to those who qualify.
“We have amazing partnerships and resources that can cover most of the bases to help people train for good-paying jobs,” Snider said. “That’s something I don’t think enough people know, that we’re a great first step in figuring out what they want to do, and then helping them actually get it done.”
“We really want to put ourselves out there in the community and let them know what we offer, we’re turning out well-prepared students,” Marler said. “We have folks who work their day job, take welding classes at night, then turn around and get a better job in that area. People may have lost their jobs from COVID, and they might not get them back. We can help.”
UniTec graduate Ed Elliott, a union carpenter who lives outside Desloge, graduated from UniTec after he got his high school diploma. Although he’s not expressly using his machine tool technology training, it’s helped him in his current gig.
“It helps a lot, I’ve worked with power plants where you had to have machine tool background to be able to do the carpentry work,” he said, also noting “the pay is good.”
“I don’t know many people who can make triple digits every year coming out of college. You have kids coming out of UniTec without tuition and fees, they’re making $40- and $50,000,” he said. “You get a lot of college kids, on the other hand, coming out with a lot of debt that they’ll be trying to pay back for the next 10 years or so. I know it’s a great program over there, I know too many people who it’s helped get started and they do well, getting their foot in the door.”
Elliott said now that he’s older, he appreciates even more what UniTec offers to kids and adults in the area.
“At 18, I went through the young adult program and it gave me a leg up on everyone else. There were four of us that got jobs right out of school,” he said. “A lot of kids in our area don’t go to college, they can’t afford it, and the financial need is there in our area. Without the UniTec programs, they’d be lost. And it’s not just about the training and getting a job, it gives them a heads up on how to make a living, provide for the family and be a better person in general.”
Marler supervises the programs in the Adult Education arena, working with those who have graduated from high school and who might either be unemployed or in between jobs. Snider works with people who are either looking to gain their high school equivalency (HSE) or they lack some of the basic skills necessary to take some of the night courses offered.
“The beginning of our job is to make sure adult students gain their HSE, but we really work with them to see if they need to move on, we prepare them for the next rung,” Snider said. “We want to prepare them for college, if that’s where they want to go. My priority is to get them their HSE, but then we have those who are basic-skills deficient, they might need to know geometry or how to read a tape measure if they want to go into construction. We’re here to help remediate those skills.”
Marler said he’s the guy people see if they already have their high school diploma and are ready to enter any of the UniTec programs that are offered at night.
“If they’re already through high school, they come see me,” he said. “We have the ability to offer almost all of our daytime programs at night, provided there’s enough enrollment. There’s financial assistance available, potential housing and transportation assistance available — anyone who wants to get a better career going, we can steer them in the right direction to help make that a reality.”
The night classes offered are in programs that could range from nursing to power sports, machine tool to welding, HVAC to electrical, and a few other programs that can help successful students grab a job before they’re even out UniTec’s door, Snider said.
“When you’re finished earning that diploma or completing those skills, our teachers help with resumes, job searches, funding sources,” she said. “Our teachers don’t just walk you out the door, they work with you so that you’re able to move on to that next step. A lot of people don’t know what that next step is, and we can help them find it, and take it.”
Snider said sometimes, students do know the next steps they want to take, they’re just not used to taking them, they need help navigating college enrollment or the working world. She said in addition to deciding on a career and finding resources to help with training, she and Marler also offer resume writing and building, and instructors help with job finding.
Snider said she remembered one student whose dedication made an impression on her.
“A lot of our students have families and jobs they can’t give up, so this is a way to get short-term training that will lead to good-paying jobs. I had one student, she was a mom with two children, she was married, she was only about 20, got her diploma, went on to EMT classes at MAC, has a job as a paramedic now and is doing amazing,” Snider said. “With the partnerships we have, we were able to help her complete her college application, her FAFSA (college financial aid) application and get funding for her through WIOA (federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), to help get her schooling paid for, her transportation money paid for.
“There are quite a few success stories like that.”
Marler said this is his first year overseeing the adult education program at UniTec, and he’s been impressed by the enthusiastic energy among the staff and faculty.
“We really want to put ourselves out there in the community and let them know what we offer, that we’re turning out well-prepared students,” Marler said. “If someone is looking into doing any of these things, they just need to call us so we can help figure out how to make it happen.
“We’ll figure out the best fit for them, then figure out payment, figure out whether we can help them with housing, transportation, tools even. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify, and the best way to find out if you qualify, is to call us.”
UniTec’s website is https://uniteccareercenter.wixsite.com/unitec-career-center, and Snider and Marler can be reached at 573-431-3300, ext. 7, option 2.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at email@example.com.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!