How to Gain Skills

Do you have the skills and education that employers want? Not sure? One of the best ways to expand your skills is through education. Make sure that your education connects to occupations that fit your interests and skills. Here are five steps to help you explore the right education for you.

Step One: Identify the skills in occupations that interest you.
Using the Occupational Skills (pdf) list your desired occupations and the education and skills required to be a competitive candidate for the position.
You can find the education requirements for each occupation by visiting PA Works

Step Two: Look at your education options.

Here are some educational options for you to think about. You can also go to your library for additional local options.

Education
Options
Description and Websites
Apprenticeship
Programs
An apprenticeship program is a temporary training program provided by an employer. It helps potential employees learn the skills of an occupation or trade. Students learn the standard skills in a classroom. They also learn on the job and sometimes get paid. Sometimes they are supported by trade or labor groups. Directory of Apprenticeship Programs.
Online
Learning
Online learning is a great option for many students. You can take one course, or you can earn a certificate or a degree. For some students, online learning can make it easier to go to school. The Workforce Online Learning Information Portal provides links to online education and training programs.
Adult Basic
Education
Adult Basic Education classes are free. They help people who are 16 and older and who are not in school. Students can improve their basic skills such as reading, math, listening, and speaking. Some classes help prepare people for better jobs or for getting ready for more education. Pennsylvania Department of Education.
U.S. Military The military offers hundreds of positions that can help you get skills and meet your goals. Careers in the military.
Licenses Licenses are the official recognition of your knowledge and skills that are required for some jobs. Licenses often vary by state. It is against the law to work in these jobs without a license. These workers often need to keep going to school to keep up their license. Interested students should ask if a school will prepare for a license. Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.
Degrees A degree is given by a college or university. It means that you completed a course of study. An associate’s degree usually takes 2 years or less. A bachelor’s degree usually takes 4 or more years. You may need to take classes to get ready for college. Pennsylvania Department of Education
Certifications Certifications are tests that measure your work knowledge. Some employers like hiring people with these skills. Interested students should ask if their school will prepare them for the certification exam. Many certifications require a degree. Career InfoNet will help you explore occupations that require certification:

Step Three: Look at what the schools offer.
Do you need to go to school? Make a list of what you want from a school or program. Then, research schools and programs that fit your list. You can use your library to find your education options. Schools tend to tell you about strengths and may hide their weaknesses. Only you can decide if a school is the right one to help you meet your career goals.

Use the tips listed below to see if you agree with the school's claims.

  • Read the materials from the school. Is it accredited? Do their courses match your goals?
  • Find out about the training. How long will it take? How much it will cost? What about tuition, fees, supplies, and books? Are there evening courses? How well does it prepare you for occupations that interest you?
  • Talk to other students and employers. Do former students feel that they are prepared for their chosen occupation? Do employers hire students from that school?
  • Find out about the school’s equipment. Is it current? Is it similar to what you will use in the workplace?
  • Ask about services for students. Do you need help with finances, daycare, tutors, computer skills, or other things?
  • Ask about “must haves” to enroll. What are the eligibility requirements to be considered for enrollment? Are there tests you need to pass? Do you need a GED or high school diploma? What else do students need to get enrolled?
  • Ask about credit options. Can you transfer your credits from other schools? Can you get credit for prior learning? 

Step 4: Track your research on schools.
Use the  School Research Worksheet (pdf) to record what you've learned from talking with schools.

Step 5: Choose education options.
Hopefully you have found several education options that fit your goals. How do you choose? Think about the research you did about occupations and schools. 

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