STEUBENVILLE-The Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Eastern Gateway Community College are joining forces to help special needs students succeed in the workforce.
Cookie West, JCBDD employment navigator and community facilitator, said she and Karla Martin, executive director of workforce/community outreach and Aspire at EGCC, are promoting programs that help transition students gain certification within months and possibly move on to earn a two-year associate’s degree.

“Karla Martin and I discussed collaborative ways to assist Jefferson County’s transition youth. The workforce and community outreach works with professional associations, state and national agencies, adult career center partners and business and industry to develop programs that fit the needs of the community,” West said. “We discussed some different strategies such as surveying local students on pathways certifications that interest them and Karla exhibited a great interest in helping students transition into adulthood by developing career pathways that open up opportunities through strategic academic and career planning.”

The new endeavor will be promoted through the Student Empowerment Tour (S.E.T.) program in which EGCC is involved with JCBDD and its Community Employment Services. S.E.T. team members travel to schools throughout Jefferson County each fall and spring to talk to students in grades 7-12 about college and job opportunities. That program kicked off its second year this month with introductory sessions at local middle and high schools and will follow with more interactive sessions in May. West said many transition students are not aware of the certification option and it gives them a chance to earn more money on the job with their enhanced skillset, plus it could inspire them to seek an associate’s degree.

“They will have certifications for different jobs in the community,” West said. “If the students don’t want to get an associate’s degree, then maybe they are willing to go into the certification program and receive an increase in their job pay. We wanted to create as many opportunities as possible and develop certification tracts to encourage more students to become engaged in the program.”

Martin said EGCC offers many options for students from remediation to workforce training. It is an official testing site for the General Education Diploma (GED) and Adult Basic and Literacy Education (Aspire) and also assists in improving basic English and math skills, upgrading academic skills for technical training and providing one-on-one literacy tutoring or writing. Aspire is provided in six counties and assists about 1,400 students per year.

“We want to let them know they have options and can earn as much as someone who went to a four-year college…and they can be a vital part of society,” Martin noted. “There are options for every type of learner.”

The workforce program provides training in phlebotomy, welding, pharmacy tech and real estate, among others, and students could earn certification in a year or less, while it is also recognized according to state, national and industry standards.

“Aspire is the best-kept secret in the area and we will open a new workforce training facility hopefully soon to expand upon the community’s needs,” Martin concluded.

For more information, contact West at (740) 264-7176, Ext. 2118, or EGCC’s Workforce Department at (740) 266-9910 or email