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Host A College Education Fair in Your Workplace

The MTRC will help you organize a Reconnect Fair onsite at your workplace at a time that is convenient for your employees.

How does it work?

The MTRC will invite college partners in your area to visit the workplace at a convenient time to set up tables featuring schools and programs you request. Reconnect Advisors can talk to employees about returning to school and completing a degree or certificate, and begin the advisement process for employees interested in returning to school. Educational providers are there to provide information about their respective schools and feature programs that would be of interest to adults and degrees that would advance the work of your organization.

What Can You Do?

Setting up the fair is easy. Complete the form at midtnreconnect.org/employers/edfairrequest and a staff person will get in touch to confirm details. You may also send an email to info@midtnreconnect.org.

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Connect Employees With The Reconnect Advisor in Your Community

Returning to school, or beginning a degree program for the first time, is a daunting task for anyone. The Middle Tennessee Reconnect Community is here to help.

How does it work?

Reconnect Advisors will work with your HR or company based college advocate to provide you and your employees detailed information and services related to post secondary education opportunities and affordability. Reconnect Advisors can work with your workforce onsite or at one of the Tennessee Career Center locations in the region.

What Can You Do?

Reconnect Advisors will work with your HR or company based college advocate to provide you and your employees detailed information and services related to
post secondary education opportunities and affordability. Reconnect Advisors can work with your workforce onsite or at one of the Tennessee Career Center locations in the region.

Promote Prior Learning Assessments (PLAS) To Your Employees

PLAs appraise and validate work-based prior learning and competencies for awarding college credit.

How does it work?

There are several forms of PLA available in our region. Here are a few:

  • Employer training: Evaluate employer training programs and/or professional development.
  • American Council on Education (ACE) National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training: Designed to connect workplace learning with college credit, ACE recommends college credit equivalents for formal instructional programs offered by agencies and workplaces across the country.
  • Challenge exams or customized exams: Colleges or their departments may offer exams to verify learning achievement.
  • College-Level Examination Program (CLEP): Administered by the College Board, CLEP is the most widely trusted credit-by-examination program that tests mastery of college-level knowledge in 36 subject areas.
  • Student portfolios: Review examples of an applicant’s work or conduct.
  • DSST exams (formerly known as DANTES Subject Standardized Tests): Originated by the Department of Defense, these credit-by-examination tests are comparable to the end-of-course examinations in undergraduate college courses.
  • ACE Military Guide: Presents credit recommendations for formal courses and training programs offered by all branches of the military in the United States.

What Can You Do?

Advise your employees to ask about the option of earning credit for prior learning as they meet with colleges. Reconnect Advisors are prepared to ask this information as well, and knowing there is a possibility of earning credit for what they have learned in the workplace may provide encouragement to Reconnectors in the workplace who are thinking about returning to school.

nicole-gibson

“By having an education reimbursement program, companies say, ‘We value you, and are invested in you.’”
– Nicole Gibson, HR site lead,
Nashville and Bowling Green, Dell

ESTABLISH AND PROMOTE A TUITION REIMBURSEMENT PROGRAM

A college education reimbursement program is an employer-financed opportunity that pays or reimburses tuition for students. The IRS provides an incentive to employers by allowing tax-free contributions.

How does it work?

When developing a budget for your tuition reimbursement program, determine approximately how much, on average, individual courses and materials cost. Also, establish criteria for employee eligibility. Some employers provide tuition reimbursement based on the performance of a student and pay a percentage of the cost of a course based on the grade earned.

What Can You Do?

Create a policy or update the policy currently in place so it reflects the mission of your organization. Communicate the policy and how employees can take advantage of this benefit in a variety of ways so all employees understand the program. MTRC can assist in the development of a program if one is not currently in place.

megan-barry

“Two of my key priorities are workforce development – ensuring that local workers are prepared to compete for good-paying jobs – and access to high-quality education for people of all ages. Good data is critical to implementing policies and programs that will help us to address these priority areas.”
– Megan Barry, mayor,
Metropolitan Government of
Nashville and Davidson County

Gather Data About Your Workforce

The MTRC has created an Educational Attainment Survey. This survey, distributed to employees by their employer, measures the attainment of the workforce, as well as motivation around attaining a certificate or degree, and barriers that may prevent employees from completing a postsecondary credential.

How does it work?

The survey takes about 5 minutes to complete, and is distributed by the employer via email to employees. MTRC will provide a link to the survey and sample emails you can customize to explain the survey and encourage employees to participate. Each employer will receive a report of results for the organization, including graphical representation of results. Regional results will be available as well.

What Can You Do?

If you are interested in participating in this survey, contact Laura Ward, MTRC director, at lward@nashvillechamber.com or 615-743-3046.

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Establish A Mentoring Program

Most workplaces have mentoring programs to help new employees learn about the organization. Similarly, educational mentoring by coworkers who  to school and completed a program can be a great asset to support and encourage those who are thinking of going back to school.

How does it work?

Mentors provide a support system and encouragement to employees who are returning to school or beginning a degree program. Mentors establish a social connection with employees they are mentoring. Mentors provide guidance and check in with their mentees to make sure they are navigating roadblocks and have access to the resources necessary to make it through to graduation.

What Can You Do?

Consider establishing a mentorship structure. By formalizing the process, you ensure mentors have the tools they need to provide support and assistance to employees who want to return to school. Some ideas: Identify and recruit mentors based on specific criteria, such as a course of study, the school an employee is attending, or a family situation; make sure mentors understand the level of commitment and the importance of their role; develop a system to match mentors with employees.

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Implement Flexible Work Schedules

Lack of time is one of the most often cited reasons adults do not return to school. Work schedules, travel time and lack of access to technology and software resources are some common barriers.

How does it work?

There are several options for flexible work schedules. The key to implementation is creating clear, concise policies that everyone understands, and being consistent with those policies. It may work for your organization to enter into a specific agreement with employees when they request a flexible work schedule. What is feasible for one organization may not work for another employer.

Flexible scheduling options could include flextime, compressed work week, part-time work schedules, telecommuting, paid time off to attend class during work hours or leaves of absence.

Flexible scheduling can be as simple as allowing an employee to come in or leave the office a half-hour early in order to get to class on time at the end the work day, or as complex as a allowing a leave of absence and planning for that employee’s return. Understanding all the options will help you make a decision on a policy that is right for your organization.

What Can You Do?

Explore options, look at best practices, or contact MTRC for assistance in coming up with a policy that will work for your organization. We will provide you with sample policies for exploring options that may work well for your unique workplace.

jason-seay

“Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation and Reconnect Advisors are here to help employees navigate financial aid. Whether they need to apply for financial aid for the first time or work on loans in default, we want to help adults navigate the process and find the best way to finance their education.”
– Jason Seay, Director of Outreach and College Access, Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation 

Help Employees Plan For Financing Education

Helping employees navigate the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to be eligible for grants and loans.

How does it work?

Student aid is available in two forms: grants and loans. Grants do not have to be paid back by your employees, while loans must be repaid. In some cases, employees may be eligible for some grants, and can then use employer reimbursement, if that option is available through their employer.

To be eligible for financial aid, employees must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or an eligible non-citizen; have a valid Social Security number; have a high school diploma or HiSET; be registered with the U.S. Selective Service (for male students, age 18-25); complete a FAFSA, promising to use any federal aid for education purposes; not owe refunds on any federal student grants; not be in default on any student loans; and not have been found guilty of the sale or possession of illegal drugs while federal aid was being received.

What Can You Do?

Encourage employees to submit a FAFSA as a first step toward applying for financial assistance. Make FAFSA information and Internet links available, and direct employees to the FAFSA website (FAFSA.ed.gov) or use tools available from the MTRC to share information. The FAFSA opens every year on October 1 for the following academic year. Individual schools have deadlines for application, but it is best to complete the FAFSA as close to the opening date as possible, as grant funds (like Pell) are distributed quickly.