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 four steps to help you explore the right education path for you.

Step One: Identify the skills in occupations that interest you.
Using the Occupational Skills (pdf) list the skills you possess that are required for that occupation. List the skills you need to acquire for that occupation.

Step Two: Look at your education options.
For more information on local options, go to your library or look online.

Description and Websites
An apprenticeship program is a training plan based on employers’ needs. 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. See the Directory of Apprenticeship Programs.
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. Here are some sites to look at: New Jersey Virtual University and New Jersey Virtual Community College Consortium.
Adult Basic
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.
New Jersey Adult Education
U.S. Military The military offers hundreds of jobs to help you get skills and meet your goals. Careers in the Military
Licenses Licenses show that you have the required knowledge and skills for some jobs. Licenses often vary by state. It is against the law to work in certain jobs without a license. Licensed workers need to keep going to school to keep up their licenses. Interested students should ask if a school will prepare them for a license. 
Degrees A degree is given by a college or university. It means that you have successfully 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. For more information, see the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education.
Certifications Certifications are tests that measure your work knowledge. Some employers like hiring people with certifications that show that they have required skills. Interested students should ask if their school will prepare them for the certification exam. Many certifications require a degree. CareerInfonet 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 by an institution recognized by state licensure boards and/or local colleges where you want to someday transfer? Do its 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 anything else?
  • Ask about “must haves” to enroll. 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 Four: School Research Worksheet (pdf)

Use this worksheet to track your research on schools. You can make a new worksheet for each occupation. Be sure to use the links provided on the previous page to ensure you are using a legitimate training program. Be sure to understand the difference between proprietary schools and non-profit schools by going to this website.

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