Residents of Hunterdon and Somerset counties have access to thousands of free online learning courses through SkillUp Greater Raritan, a new initiative of the Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board.
Beginning Feb. 10, any resident of Hunterdon and Somerset counties can sign up in the Metrix E-Learning System, which gives participants access to a vast catalog of courses reflecting marketable skills businesses in the region say they want their employees to have.
These include Microsoft and Adobe programs, Project Management, Help Desk and workplace behavior and customer service classes.
“Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board system partners already offer a variety of career coaching, job recruitment and workshops aimed at helping job seekers and those in lower-wage positions embark on sustainable employment pathways,” said Paul Grzella, GRWDB director. “We see Skillup Greater Raritan as a way to introduce more residents to our services, and provide them with a 24/7 resource for personal and professional development.”
The initiative provides a free license to users of the SkillSoft program for six months or 180 days. SkillUp Greater Raritan participants have access to a catalog of more than 4,000 courses that includes IT and software lessons, project management, human resources, banking, retail, hospitality and communication skills.
The Metrix E-Learning System was introduced by the Greater Raritan One Stop Career Training Center in the spring of 2019 as a tool to use for participants in special-population youth and Workfirst New Jersey programs. The aim was to help participants in those programs learn new skills and earn certificates or prepare for future certification work.
In the late fall of 2019, the executive board of the GRWDB decided to expand this opportunity to all residents of the two counties it serves; direct participants in the One Stop system also will continue to have access to the training programs. This includes unemployed adults, out-of-school unemployed youth, TANF and SNAP client, those with disabilities and those in reentry programs.
“Any resident of Hunterdon and Somerset counties can sign up for SkillUp Greater Raritan to upgrade their current skills or learn new ones to improve their employment opportunities,” said Violet Kocsis, board chair of the GRWDB and Chief Human Resources Officer for Hunterdon Healthcare System. “Employers in the two counties looking for training opportunities for their employees are also welcomed to work with us as we roll out this tool. We believe this one-year pilot program will enable us to reach residents who never knew about these services, while also expanding the services the board provides.”
After signing up, the online learning platform offers tools to assess an individual’s knowledge and skills needed for in-demand careers. The portal provides guidance on which training courses to take to close any identified knowledge or skill gaps, and connects participants to hiring employers through Indeed.com.
Participants receive digital badges or certificates as they complete each training session, which typically includes four to five segments.
Because this is an e-learning portal, registrants can go through their selected courses at their own pace and as their schedules permit. The SkillUp Greater Raritan platform is available on desktop computers as well as digital devices.
SkillUp Greater Raritan can help different populations in different ways. For example, someone who may be currently employed but looking for a better job, or currently working two jobs and would like to move to one, could use the training modules to add to their skill base.
While the unemployment rate in both counties is near record low levels – 2.7 percent in Somerset County and 2.5 percent in Hunterdon County in November 2019 – those in the system continue to work with the long-time unemployed, who may not be represented in the statistics but are still looking for a job. The e-learning tool can help provide this population some direction and free training, which in turn could lead to more training and employment.
“We could use it on our classes to help introduce our students to different career paths,” said Fran Leddy, adult literacy programs coordinator for Hunterdon County Educational Services Commission, which provides classes in Hunterdon and Somerset counties. “It can help our students understand what may be needed for different jobs they are interested in, and introduce them to basic job-performance requirements.”
Several counties around New Jersey and in different states around the nation already have used the Metrix training model successfully. Middlesex County, introduced SkillUp Middlesex in 2018, and have seen more than 1,500 register and take part in the classes in each of the past two years. Time management and communication courses have been among the most popular, but other top courses have included Excel Workbook and Data, Getting Started in QuickBooks, and Developing a Plan to Further Your Career.
Kevin Kurdziel, director of the Middlesex County Workforce Development Board and Office of Career Opportunity, also supports business services work in the county.
“Businesses coming to an area always ask, ‘Does your area have a qualified and skilled workforce,” Kurdziel said in a recent interview. “When employers hear about potential employees participating in the SkillUp program, they say, ‘We don’t have to spend money on this training because these individuals are already receiving this training from Middlesex County.’ It makes our people looking for jobs or advancement much more marketable, more competitive than other areas.”
The GRWDB has a one-year contract for the service. If the pilot period, which ends in January 2021, goes well, the board will consider extending the contract.
For more information on services for employers and job seekers offered in the Greater Raritan area, visit www.thegrdbw.org. Job seekers also can sign up for a weekly text alert that highlights individual recruiting events, career workshops and other workforce-related programs in the Somerset and Hunterdon counties. Text “ONESTOP” to 565-12 on a mobile phone to subscribe.
To sign up for SkillUp Greater Raritan, residents of Hunterdon and Somerset counties go to http://thegrwdb.mextrixlearning.com. The link also can be found under the Resources tab of https://www.thegrwdb.org/ and on the websites for Hunterdon and Somerset counties.
This will take you to the sign-in page; on the page, go to “Click to Sign Up for SkillUp Greater Raritan.” This will take you to the registration page which has several required fields to fill out, including name, email address, zip code, and counselor name. If you are not a participant in a system program, mark “None.” (Users are asked to fill out all fields to help Greater Raritan get a complete picture of who is taking part in the program.)
After completing the form, users click on “register.” New users will be assigned a user name and password, and have instant access to Metrix Learning from anywhere online. A ‘Getting Started” tutorial will pop up to introduce Metrix Learning.
Each user’s My Plan will be preloaded with four courses focusing on workplace skills. On their home page, users are also able to see popular courses in the system, create their own program training plan which they will have six months to complete, and track their progress. Courses also can be added to a plan as well, which will extend the time permitted to use the system.
The Metrix course catalog is large, so users are encouraged to click on “Explore Career Pathways,” which present industry paths with the aligned course programs. Users can also click “Browse the Catalog” to explore skill tracks to help direct their customized training plans and progress. Completion of these courses ends with badges / certificates of completion which can be incorporated into resumes and job interviews.
Users also can explore 130 industry certification tracks which give them the opportunity to prepare for industry certification exams in a number of areas, including Cisco, human resources and project management. Industry exams, which carry a fee, are not included in this program, but users are linked to the appropriate sites for more information.
A Help tab takes users to links to more than 20 helpful video tutorials. Links are also available to a USER FAQ, Certification FAQ, and a support team.
Locally, staff of the Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board will be available to go out to locations in either county to conduct training sessions for public or private agencies who feel this service will help their customers.
For more information, agencies or individuals also may call the Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board staff office at 908-541-5790 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.