On a day when South Carolina’s unemployment rate increased from 9.1 to 9.4 percent, Gov. Nikki Haley and Superintendent of Education Mick Zais were on hand for an announcement at West Columbia City Hall that they hope will bring that number down.
Haley and Zais were joined by several other officials to introduce the Free and Fast Track GED Program. The program is a unique partnership between religious, governmental, business and educational entities that aims to make it easier for at-risk students to acquire their GED. The catalyst for the partnership is The Nehemiah Project, which is an enterprise of Christ Central Ministries. It’s a four-year-old enterprise that has succeeded in helping students in rural areas earn their GED and now, with its introduction into West Columbia, is bringing the program to a metro area for the first time.
The McGee Real Estate Co. in Lexington will help make the venture possible. Once students receive their GED they can they take skill-based classes or career-specific training at Midlands Technical College.
Speakers at the announcement noted that there are a variety of factors that prevent students from earning a GED, but foremost among them is the time required in classrooms, which can be difficult for students with family or transportation issues. The Nehemiah Project abbreviates the classroom time by focusing on areas where a student is deficient and then improves those areas to a point where the student can then pass the GED exam. The same approach is used for students receiving post-secondary certifications at Midlands Tech.
Zais said one of the reasons why more programs such as Free and Fast Track GED aren’t in place is because organizers are too dependent on grant money.
“I’ve told folks that if you are going to wait for grant money to educate your community, then you’re going to be waiting a long time,” Zais said.
Zais added that one of the reasons for the unemployment rate is because workers don’t have enough skills, or the skills that they do have are not what’s needed by employers.
In a media session after the announcement, Haley took ownership of the increase in unemployment. “It tells me I’ve got to work harder and get more jobs here and more people trained quicker,” she said.
But Haley said the Nehemiah Project will help, which she compared to her own Original 6 Foundation.
“(The Free and Fast GED Program) steps things up another level.,” Haley said. “Every one who gets a water bill in West Columbia will receive information on GED signups.”
For more information on the Nehemiah Project, click HERE.