Written by Sharla Bardin for 19th St. Magazine, September 2021
A joint collaboration between Moore Norman Technology Center and a federal workforce initiative seeks to ease the financial burdens faced by individuals who want to continue their education, re-enter the workforce or pursue a new career field.
The goal is to increase awareness about the resources available, including assistance for those who have been laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic and are looking for new jobs.
“There’s a lot of barriers out there. That’s what we help to try to eliminate,” said Steve Kehl, a representative for the Central Oklahoma Workforce Innovation Board.
Kehl works as a career navigator with the board and has an office at the center’s South Penn campus to assist individuals who qualify for the board’s assistance programs.
The Central Oklahoma Workforce Innovation Board is a nonprofit organization focused on building a quality workforce through education and creating connections between job seekers and businesses, according to www.cowib.org, the organization’s website.
The organization receives funding from the Department of Labor to the state. Individuals who qualify for the assistance can receive funding to help them complete training or a job program for an in-demand occupation, such as machining, commercial truck driving and health care jobs.
Kehl said adults looking for assistance can complete an assessment to gauge their career interests and meet with a representative to talk about the next steps. Representatives with the organization also work with individuals on career guidance and planning.
“We still work with them up to a year to make sure they find employment,” he said.
In addition, the organization also offers programs to help youth receive education, training and work experience to help them transition into the workforce.
Kehl said he’s excited about the joint effort between the board and Moore Norman Technology Center and the opportunity to reach more people who can benefit from the board’s services.
Peter Evans, a training consultant at the technology center, said the resources from the Central Oklahoma Workforce Innovation Board have been available to students at Moore Norman Technology Center but said the program has been underutilized. Having Kehl on campus can help raise awareness and connect more students to those resources.
Evans also said those programs from the board aren’t exclusively available to Moore Norman Technology Center but that individuals can utilize the services at other career techs in the area.
Evans also encourages individuals who are interested in furthering their education and training but face financial or scheduling difficulties to contact technology centers to see about additional programs that can help.
“We’re here trying to eliminate those obstacles,” Evans said.
A variety of programs are available to help students pay for programs at Moore Norman Technology Center.
Audra Main, a financial aid coordinator at the center, said the financial aid office can help students navigate those avenues of assistance.
One of the first steps she recommends is for individuals to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. The form allows students to request federal grants, work-study, and loans in one application and is found at studentaid.gov.
Another area of assistance for some students is the GI Bill, which helps qualifying veterans pay for college, graduate school and training programs.
State assistance, scholarships and tuition waivers also are available to students. In addition, Main recommends that students from Native American tribes in Oklahoma check about financial assistance through the tribe.
Main also encourages students to contact the financial aid office for more information as they look into assistance for school. “We’re happy to answer questions that we can and guide you the best way that we can,” she said.