Last month, in cooperation with its client, the Norfolk Department of Human Services, the KRA/VIEW (Virginia Initiative for Employment Not Welfare) Program’s Instruction Team launched a campaign against illiteracy: VITAL…VIEW Instructors Take Action for Literacy. Tiffany J. Haynes, KRA Lead Instructor, and Sheena Griffin and Frederick Smith, KRA Instructors, based the decision to create a targeted anti-illiteracy project, in part, on jobseeker-customers’ scores on the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education.) Essentially, TABE is a placement test that covers the basics of reading, English, and math, and requires a certain level of literacy for an acceptable grade-score in each category. Adequate TABE scores are required for enrollment in some programs, such as occupational-skills training, GED prep classes, etc.
KRA staff have always provided GED tutoring, but determined that additional remediation was needed to assure that low-literacy VIEW customers were able to move on successfully to the next step in their pre-employment preparation. VIEW participants are “tabed” twice a month, to assess progress, depending upon their date of entry into the Program. Approximately 30 percent of the participants, ranging in age from 18 to 50, who enroll in the new VITAL project already have a high school diploma or equivalent, and the rest are enrolled in GED prep classes.
According to Griffin, “The KRA/VIEW program really has only one goal for our jobseeker-customers, and that is to assist them in any way we can in becoming self-sufficient. But to achieve that one goal, we provide many services to ensure that each and every customer receives the preparation he/she needs. Our job-readiness/skills-training program has both internal and external components including classroom lectures and activities, one-on-one resume development, community work experience, etc. All of these opportunities require a basic set of literacy skills in reading, writing, and verbal communication. Our VITAL program is designed to address that challenge, which represents a critical barrier to employment.”
Smith added, “Our first goal for the VITAL initiative was to obtain ‘real-life’ books and other reading materials to enhance the GED program. We thought it was important for participants to use everyday reading materials, in addition to those provided through the regular classroom curriculum. So, in addition to our own staff, we reached out to the community to solicit donations. One staff member in particular, Maureen Chappell, KRA Career Agent, did an outstanding job in contributing to the effort. Through her own personal library, those of relatives, and the Norfolk Police and 911 operations, she donated more than 75 books in the first week of the operation!”
Haynes concluded, “Thanks to the dedication of our staff, as well as continued community support, we are confident that VITAL, combined with our job-prep program operations, will make a difference in our customers’ tomorrows as they strive for self-sufficiency. Enhancing their literacy skills will help restore the self-confidence some customers have lost, at the same time enhancing both their life- and professional-development opportunities.”