Adult Education: Training for the Future

Helping the community.

In 1982, Father Daniel Trainor and Sister Angela Daniels founded a nonprofit agency to help the South East Asian refugees living in Providence’s West End. After assessing the community’s needs, the two began teaching classes in life skills and English as a Second Language (ESL).

Since opening its doors 36 years ago the Genesis Center has helped over 7,500 people — in part due to their willingness to adapt. At the time the Center was founded people in the community relied on manufacturing jobs to support their families, but over the next three decades factories closed and the economy became service-based.

While ESL classes remained central to their mission, the nonprofit added programs in culinary arts and healthcare to better prepare their clients for the changing world. Tyla Pimentel, Genesis Center’s Adult Services Director, explains, “It became increasingly difficult to earn a living-wage working in low-skilled jobs, so we adapted to the community’s changing needs.”

Popular new program.

The most recent example of this willingness to evolve is their Pharmacy Technician Program. This program, which was born out of a partnership between Genesis Center, Building Futures, and CVS Heath, gives students an opportunity to train for a career that’s on track to add 47,600 new jobs by 2026. In addition to the faster than average job growth, the median income for those entering the field is $15.26 an hour.

The program, now in its second cohort, has started receiving more interest from the community. “Many times, people come in for another class but end up interested in the pharmacy tech program,” says Liz Hanke, Genesis Center’s Workforce Coordinator. Part of this new program’s appeal is that graduates do their internships with CVS Health — which often leads to job offers.

Internships are far from the end of their collaboration; CVS Health’s in-house training modules are foundational to the program’s curriculum. “Our students start their careers at an advantage,” explains Tyla. “They complete most of CVS’s training program before they even graduate.”

In addition, Genesis helps students develop soft skills, such as writing resumes and interviewing, while also preparing them for the reality of entering the workforce. “It’s important we help manage their expectations,” says Liz. “We explain to them that no one starts at the top, but if they put in the time, work hard, and are dependable they can achieve success — but that it’s ultimately up to them.”

Investing in adult education.

Like Genesis Center, United Way of Rhode Island understands helping others often relies on an agency’s willingness to adapt. This willingness is what helps nonprofits meet the changing needs of a community — like the need for quality adult education.

United Way invests in adult education by supporting effective programs like Genesis Center’s Pharmacy Technician Program. “United Way allows us to help more people benefit from this program,” Tyla explains. “Community members who would otherwise never have an opportunity like this.”

United Way’s continued investment in adult education is important to our goal of changing the lives of 250,000 Rhode Islanders by the year 2020. Working closely with partners, such as Genesis Center, we will not only reach this goal but surpass it — helping many more Rhode Islanders in the process.

By: Jason Boulay, UWRI
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