Career Online High School is First Step on the Path to Increasing Skill Level of Michigan Workforce

Cengage Learning’s Career Online High School (COHS) today announced its first partnership with an adult education program in the state of Michigan. Over 221,500 Michigan adults ages 25 to 44 lack a high school education; however, fewer than seven percent are enrolled in adult education. As a result, they are unable to receive basic education skills and occupational training required for many skilled jobs. A new partnership between Michigan Virtual University (MVU), COHS, and the Okemos Public Schools adult education program seeks to change that.

COHS is an accredited, career-focused high school program aligned to Section 107 Adult Education Funding in the state of Michigan as well as national WIOA legislation. It is designed to re-engage adults back into the educational system—serving as the first step to additional occupational training and career credentials. MVU delivers the online program through workforce boards and existing adult education programs, the first of which is Okemos Public Schools.

The Okemos adult education program is funded primarily through state and federal funds. “The State 107 and WIOA language specifically states the need for an integrated curriculum, so when we found COHS, we knew it was the answer,” said Karyn Goven, director of the Okemos program. “Now, in addition to learning English, our students can work toward a high school diploma and a certificate/credential that includes an articulation with our local Community College so that they can have a seamless transition to a pathway to employment or into postsecondary programs.”

Both the governor and legislature have emphasized the importance of increasing the skill level of Michigan’s workforce. With the reduction in manufacturing jobs in the state, adults can no longer expect to get a well‐paying manufacturing job with just a high school diploma, as more employers require some level of occupational training. However, a high school diploma is the prerequisite to that training. This current dynamic leaves many Michigan adults stuck with no options.

“COHS is an important adult education transition program that addresses that disconnect,” said Goven. “Because of changes in reauthorization, we are partnering with agencies to align our curriculum and services to eliminate barriers and provide a pathway for employment and postsecondary education/training.”

For the program’s first enrollment, it’s working. Danny Boy Quimba, who was taking English language classes with Okemos, was reengaged back into the educational system thanks to the program. The currently unemployed 23-year-old said COHS will enable him to go to college to seek additional credentials. “I enrolled because I needed to finish high school,” he said. “COHS is the best program. Because it’s online, I can manage my own time and continue my ESL classes. I recommend it to everybody who’s seeking their high school diploma.”

Goven says the pilot is an important one for other programs seeking career/contextualized education/curriculum. “When Danny Boy came to us, his reading, listening, and writing skills were at a 3rd-grade level. Since being in our program he has advanced six grade levels,” she shared. “The students’ track records of success will provide important data for other programs striving to meet the requirements of the new language in 107 and WIOA federal funds.”

“We are encouraged by the recent increase in funding for adult education and our ability to help improve the skills and marketability of Michigan’s adult workforce in an effort to meet the needs of Michigan’s employers,” said Dr. Howard Liebman, Superintendent of Schools for the COHS district. “Our recent partnership with Okemos Public Schools is an excellent launching point for COHS in our ability to develop additional partnerships with workforce boards and public school districts around the state of Michigan.”