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According to a recent statement by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (IDWD), many former RV workers from across the state are benefiting from an influx of training grants secured by Gov. Mitch Daniels to help them prepare for new careers.
However, according to a report by the Goshen News, concerns have been raised locally that the majority of these funding options come with a catch — the need for a high school or General Educational Development (GED) diploma.
“There isn’t any need to be a high school graduate,” said IDWD spokesperson Gary Abell in response to the claim. “These funds are available to any worker who has been displaced from the RV industry.”
Abell did note however that many of the educational plans provided through unemployment offices like Elkhart’s WorkOne call for a GED to be obtained.
“Now what may happen is, for instance, when they go into a WorkOne office, and they meet with a career counselor, depending on what their interest is, a part of their education plan would more than likely include getting a GED, but they are still going to be eligible for those training funds,” Abell said. “We certainly don’t want people to think that they don’t qualify. If you’ve been displaced from the RV industry, go to a WorkOne office and figure out what you want to do and get yourself there.”
Peter Wood, a recently laid-off RV worker from the Goshen area, maintained that many unemployed RV workers are finding it difficult or even impossible to secure any type of funding assistance without first obtaining a high school diploma or GED.
“I’ve been an RV worker since I was 16 years old,” said Wood, who lost his job of 17 years when Monaco Coach closed its doors back in September.
Now 53-years-old and unemployed, Wood said he never in his wildest dreams thought he’d be forced to go back to school.
“No, I never thought I’d have to go back. I thought I’d retire from where I was. You put in 17 years, and Monaco Coach has been around for years and years. I never thought they’d leave the area,” Wood said. “I’ve been in the RV business for almost 35 years, and now all of the sudden it’s not good enough.”
Upon hearing that state-funded training options were available through the local WorkOne unemployment office, Wood said he quickly arranged for a meeting at the office, only to run into another roadblock.
“They told me at WorkOne that they wouldn’t even talk to me until I had my GED,” Wood said. “They have all these loans to get you re-educated, but when you get there there’s nothing for you without a GED. There are higher education options available, like through IVY Tech, but to go to those classes, at least most of them, you’ve got to have a GED.
To make matters worse, GED programs all across the county are full to capacity and turning people away, most with waiting lists stretching into the new year.