Weber State University is staying adaptable through difficult times with its Flexible Learn and Work Study paths. These allow busy students to earn stackable credentials and certificates of proficiency on a streamlined educational path. The paths are designed to translate into jobs for certificate-earners in high-demand industries and to open the opportunity for continued education.
The flexible, low-cost study programs are available for everyone. It is a rare opportunity, especially because there are grants and money available to help incentivize people to take advantage of these “once-in-a-lifetime” educational opportunities.
“These funds are from the State Legislature that created the GOED and USHE Fund,” said Director of Sponsored Projects and Technology Commercialization at WSU James Taylor. “However, these funds are part of the CARES Act given to the state of Utah.”
These funds are available for all residents of Utah. The funding for the program is not a grant that students can apply for; the money was granted to WSU in order to help create this opportunity for those who have been impacted by the recent pandemic.
“They are grants given to the university to help build programs that will help community, industry and current students return to work through up-skilling and retooling their education,” said Director of Credentials and Concurrent Enrollment at WSU Beth Rhoades. “These (funds) are meant to help employees get back to work if they have been displaced due to COVID-19.”
Associate Dean of The College of Engineering and Applied Technology Dr. Brian Rague has been heavily involved with the program. Both WSU and the local industry advisory council have come together to ensure the curriculum for these certificates are suitable for the high demand of unfilled jobs in their respective fields.
“An individual from the community who earns this certificate can bring it to a place of work and the employer will recognize it as a substantial effort of trying to learn whatever skill sets they have been certified on,” Rague said. “These certificates of proficiency have intrinsic value and can help launch someone’s career.”
In addition to the funding for better education, the paths stack for future education for students.
“This is a unique and special opportunity for individuals who have thought about becoming proficient in a certain skill to take advantage of the tuition support that is available,” Rague added. “It’s probably a one-time opportunity, so it’s best to take advantage of it now.”
A.J. and Angela Harold, husband and wife, have both taken advantage of this opportunity. A.J. was working while Angela had already earned a bachelor’s in accounting as well as international economics at WSU in 2017.
They both spoke with their academic advisor in January because they wanted to allow themselves to be more flexible for post-graduation opportunities. With A.J.’s experience in working with agencies, he felt that he wanted to earn his education in computer science.
Angela, although having already earned her bachelor’s from WSU, also wanted to expand her educational and learn computer science because she felt she did not have the knowledge that she knew would be useful.
“If there are people who are debating whether or not they should do it,” Angela Harold said. “Just do it because this is an awesome opportunity that doesn’t come to everyone.”
Before A.J. jumped into the CS Flex Computer Science program, he was attending an all-online school. He felt that it would be a cheap, flexible and useful opportunity for his educational goals; however, it didn’t work for him.
“There wasn’t an instructor, it was just tests. There just wasn’t the same value there. If you got it, you could move forward, but if you didn’t, or you got stuck, it was like ‘Oh well,’” A.J. said.
The one major benefit to attending WSU’s CS Flex and Work Study programs, A.J. went on to explain, is that it follows the traditional learning environment that Weber State offers: instructors and people who are resources for students. Plus, the content that the Harolds’ are “absorbing” through the CS Flex Program is content they feel like they can use on a job already.
This opportunity will be available to all Utah residents; however, in order to make use of the financial aspect of this perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, students who are interested have until Spring 2021 to complete their respective educational proficiency certifications.