Fifteen NPC students will soon earn their GED®. However, these 15 are unique because they won’t just have a diploma to show for it, but will also have real, marketable job skills, knowing how to build a house — even having built one with their own hands.
These students have enrolled in what’s being called the “IBEST Program.” A collaboration between Northland Pioneer College and Northeastern Arizona Innovative Workforce Solutions, the program takes its name from the grant that partially funds it, provided by the Arizona Department of Education, and has been doing exactly what its unofficial slogan says: “Building Homes, Building Futures.”
Integrated Basic Education Skills Training (IBEST) is the simple idea of empowering disadvantaged adults to study for their GED® in the classroom while also learning to apply those principles and lessons to real-life situations and circumstances outside of class.
One example has been Deven Endfield, an NPC student and current participant in the IBEST program. He credits the lessons he has learned from instructors and other classmates with helping him turn his life around and strive for something higher. “I was at a time in my life where I knew I was in trouble, struggling with substance abuse. My future wasn’t heading anywhere positive,” says Endfield. “It’s been the IBEST program that has really helped me find purpose and be the provider for my family that I’ve always wanted to be.”
“It all started when I hit rock bottom,” Endfield explains. This contributed to a financial situation where he couldn’t afford rent, his car, or supporting his family in general. “It was hitting that low point in my life twice that made me wake up and realize that I couldn’t make it with just a job any more – I needed to start looking for a career.” Endfield looked at NPC as the beginning to a new life.
“I had been taught that a career meant going to school, so at first, I did all my own research at NPC and decided that construction was something that I really wanted to do… But I still felt lost because I didn’t have a high school diploma and I just didn’t know how to get started.” That’s when Endfield talked to instructors and advisers at NPC and learned about the IBEST program.
With little work experience, Endfield considers himself lucky to have found the IBEST program. “I feel like I’ve been able to start a new life and find what I really love to do.” As he’s been able to experiment with different construction trades Endfield has found a passion for framing and is excited to see what the future holds for him now. “I definitely know now that I want construction to be my career and I can even see myself specializing in framing too,” says Endfield. “Now I can imagine building a house for my own family. There was a time where I didn’t have hope, but now I feel like I can go out and really support my family while doing something I love to do.”
“The IBEST program is about helping students reach that positive tipping point in their life,” says Jorge Meza, NPC IBEST instructor and project manager. “You see it in Deven, you see it in all of them. These students are going to leave this program being able to make $6,000–$8,000 more per year while being much more employable and will have more opportunities to better provide for themselves and their families. They’re not only getting their GED® but also real career experience.”
– Michael Nilsson