TEXAS CITY — A College of the Mainland program is helping adult students get a head start on preparing to join the workforce while preparing to obtain a GED certificate.

The Accelerate Texas program, funded by a $325,000 state grant, just completed its first year at the college. More than 80 percent of the students in the program finished workforce training and obtained a GED, about four times the average completion rate, said Joshua Hayes, director of adult education at the college.

Students in the program prepare for the GED certification test while receiving workforce training in fields including welding, air-conditioning repair and medical coding and billing.

It allows students without a high school education to begin obtaining college credit in several high-skill trades that are prevalent in the region, benefiting both local residents and businesses and giving adult students a jump start on entering the workforce, Hayes said.

“It’s making an investment in the students and the community,” he said.

Many young people might drop out of school because they don’t see an immediate benefit, Hayes said. The training that goes along with the Accelerate Texas program demonstrates the practical benefits of preparing to join the workforce, he said.

The program had about 92 enrollments in its first year, and is aiming to add more than 125 new enrollments in the coming year, Hayes said.

Welding instructor Victor Woods said demand for new welders is high, and students who complete certificates at College of the Mainland have an immediate leg-up finding employment in the trade, including with local industry in the Texas City area.

Many students in the program in its first year are now pursuing advanced certificates and others already have found employment, Hayes said.

Daviana Tucker, who was home-schooled growing up, said she enrolled in the program and pursued welding because of other family members who have thrived in similar fields.

Nina Zhukova said she moved to Texas from Russia and took English as a second language courses at College of the Mainland before joining the Accelerate Texas program. She said the training she’s received at the college has allowed her to improve her English and has already helped her with practical skills.

Zhukova, who is studying medical coding and billing, said she hopes to work at the University of Texas Medical Branch one day.

Renee Pitts, 24, dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and enrolled in the program last year to learn how to quickly launch a career.

Pitts, a mother of three children, received her GED certificate and in about four months completed technical training in medical billing and coding, including a certification from the National Health Career Association. She now works as a medical coder for Medicaid in Houston.

For information on the Accelerate Texas program or to ask about enrolling, call 409-933-8294 or visit com.edu/adulted.

Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or alex.macon@galvnews.com.

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