Fairfax County Times

Program aims to ‘empower’ graduates without college

May 24, 2024 | By Jared Wenzelburger
Fairfax County Times

Through FCPS ACE’s Workforce Development programs, Apprenticeship students gain workforce-ready skills plus the licenses and certifications today’s employers require.

As the school year draws to a close, not all graduates have a path forward for their higher learning or careers. But the Fairfax County Public School Board recently praised the Adult and Community Education (ACE) program, which aims to offer a solution for students preparing to enter the workforce.

This after-graduation program aims to increase skill-based career opportunities by “enhancing and expanding workforce development, exploratory learning and certification programs,” according to a news release. The board recognized the program, highlighting its impact on career and technical education.

Major companies such as IBM, Google, and Bank of America are already changing their hiring strategies to reduce the number of roles requiring a four-year degree.

“Gen Z and professionals of tomorrow have a decreased interest in four-year degrees and are seeking greater options for skilled career training because it delivers an accelerated career path and hands-on training,” said Paul Steiner, administrator of Fairfax County Public Schools’ ACE program. “The need for skilled-based education increases as more leading organizations put higher importance on skills-based knowledge over college degrees. For students eager to jump more directly into a career, this shift creates more favorable opportunities for the current and incoming workforce.”

The ACE program supports workforce development and the “heightened interest of and preference of students” in skilled-trade certifications compared to four-year degree programs. The workforce Development program supports Apprenticeships for those looking to develop careers as electricians, plumbers, HVAC specialists, and construction. ACE officials say the program supports the career path from apprentice to journeyman to master, which has led to former students of FCPS ACE becoming leaders and, in many cases, business owners of their businesses providing one of these specialty services.

“ACE’s plumbing apprenticeship … empowered me to invest in myself and my future goals.” said student Rabiu Yusif. “Through this program, I am gaining the knowledge and skills I need to become a certified master plumber. This will not only enhance my financial position, but it provides me the opportunity to one day own my own business, mentor others in the plumbing profession, and better the industry.”

Students can also opt for health-related fields with the Workforce Development program, which includes courses to become clinical medical assistants, medical administrative assistants, patient care technicians/assistants, billing and coding specialists, phlebotomy technicians, EKG technicians, electronic health records specialists, nurse’s aides, to name a few. EMT certification, dental assistant, and veterinary assistant/office manager are a few others.

Those looking for IT careers are also in luck. Classes leading to a career as a professional in network security, or software to becoming a Cloud specialist or Java specialist are available.

Officials say the ACE program is the “leading provider of flexible, affordable, outcome-oriented classes to promote learning at any stage in life.” The program offers More than 3,000 courses in a variety of subjects and aims to “empower students of all ages and backgrounds to explore options” following graduation.

ACE launched online classes during the pandemic to make the program more accessible. Before 2020, all classes were held inside public schools in Fairfax County. According to the media release, student interest in online courses continues to increase.

“ACE has been at the forefront of workforce development and skilled-trade education,” Steiner said. “With over 60% of our skilled-trade and workforce development programs now available online, we provide more pathways for students, like Rabiu, to achieve a skilled-trade education and certifications and deliver workforce-ready professionals to employers. Altogether, fostering greater economic success for the Fairfax community.”

The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Adult and Community Education program (ACE) is the leading provider of flexible, affordable, outcome-oriented classes to promote learning at any stage in life. We offer more than 3,000 courses in a wide range of subjects that empower students of all ages and backgrounds to explore options for after high school graduation, gain valuable technical training, advance their careers with relevant skills, or enhance their lives with a range of personal interest classes. Our students and their success are what drives FCPS ACE. With more than 60 years of history and a deep connection to the local community, FCPS ACE is for you.

©2024 Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Adult and Community Education