Updated 

State fund will cut cost of UH-Hilo work force training classes


Hawaii Island residents looking to attend work force training at University of Hawaii at Hilo could now qualify to attend some classes at half price.

The state recently awarded a contract to UH-Hilo’s College of Continuing Education and Community Service to teach the training classes through funds provided by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Employment and Training Fund. The program’s goal, according to a UH-Hilo newsletter, is to provide and enhance the occupational skills and knowledge of currently employed workers and other individuals who meet eligibility requirements.

Program administrators at the college worked to isolate many areas island employers said they would like to see included, with most of the skills offered through the classes being classified as “soft skills,” Farrah-Marie Gomes, the college’s interim dean, said.

“We’re trying to reach a larger scope in the community,” she said. “We’ll have employees that are coming from the government sector, or the private sector, or nonprofits, so we try to provide a wide range of skill sets, ones that can translate into many different areas.”

Employees can study areas such as customer service, including how to deal with difficult customers, or how to handle business over the telephone, she said. Other classes include learning how to make the move to a supervisor position, how to become a better secretary, grant writing and managing the business of operating a farm.

Some other course selections might not appear immediately applicable to the work environment, but taken in the context of living and working on the Big Island, the information they cover can add value to a worker’s resume, Gomes said.

For example, one of the classes offered focuses on tsunami preparedness.

“Especially for those folks working in evacuation designated areas, having the knowledge of what to do when the next tsunami hazard is announced is very important,” she said. “Completing this course makes them marketable. … It’s also important for business owners to know what to do.”

One employer explained she had little time to grab the most important pieces of equipment that would be needed to keep the business going during a recent evacuation, and rather than unplug the various devices, which would have taken too long, she cut the cords.

“She figured it would be cheaper to replace the cords afterward than the equipment itself,” Gomes said.

Employees and employers who are better prepared will be able to save their companies money and time when it matters most, she said.

Another course that might not be an obvious choice is a lecture series entitled “Aging with Grace.”

“That’s an interesting one that started off being very consumer driven,” she said. “We have a lot of older people who may reach retirement age, but they say they can’t retire, because they bought a 30-year mortgage when they were in their 50s and they need to pay it off. They’re staying in the work force, not because they want to, but because they have to.”

The course helps workers learn how to better prepare for the future, and how to better live independently, she said.

In addition, the ETF fund encourages providers to focus on specific areas to help create a more diversified job base for an area, and for employers in high-growth occupations or industries with critical skill shortages. It also targets training and retraining programs for recently unemployed workers, those likely to be unemployed, residents facing employment barriers who are otherwise unable to qualify for federal or state job training programs, and employees in need of specific skills to improve career employment prospects.

For more information on the class offerings, or to sign up, email ccecs@hawaii.edu, visit hilo.hawaii.edu/academics/ccecs or call 974-7664.

Eligibility for the classes requires that participants are currently employed by a nongovernment entity. ETF’s assistance has a tuition cap of $500, meaning the fund will cover up to but not exceed $250. Any excess balance must be covered by the employee or his employer. The assistance does not cover the cost of books, tools, equipment or auxiliary and support services.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.