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Bradshaw Library director Betty Hamilton speaks to a crowd gathered on Tuesday in reference to the Universal Classes programs now offered. - Chris Heaney

Universal Class offers secondary education

By Chris Heaney

VALLEY — Those in the Valley interested in pursuing secondary education, increasing their skill set or picking up a new hobby will soon be able to, with nothing more than a library card.

The Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, in a partnership with the Charter Foundation and Chambers County Libraries, has made the online software Universal Class free and open to the public.

To inform the public about their new partnership and discuss what Universal Class actually is, GVACC Executive Director Ashley Crane and Marketing and Events Manager Carrie Royster were at Bradshaw Chambers County Library Tuesday morning for Business at Breakfast.

“Universal Class is an online-based continuing education software that, through this partnership, will allow everyone in Chambers County and the Greater Valley Area that live or work in our community to access these classes at no additional charge,” Crane said.

With more than 500 online courses ranging from baking to the history of the second World War, Universal Class offers coursework that area residents can now take for class certification.

“I have already talked to a few patrons who have used the service,” library director Mary Hamilton said. “One woman signed up for a medical records class, because she was looking forward to a new job opportunity. We had one of our 90-year-old patrons who came in after he completed his first history class and wanted us to help him print out his certificate of completion.”

Crane said a big draw of the classes were their ability to help out individuals looking to further their education. However, Universal Class can help benefit businesses and larger organizations as well.

“For an employer you don’t have to pay travel to a seminar or a conference, you don’t have to pay for a hotel stay, you don’t have to pay the registration fees, you don’t have to have someone cover that job while someone is out,” she said. “If they can have someone [learning] in house, that is priceless, I would think, to a business.”

On-the-job training through Universal Class is already taking place in the area, too. Tammy Lamb of J. Smith Lanier and Co said that new employees at her business take some classes in their free time at work.

“New people who come into accounting and corporate, we send them to communication classes, we send them to [Microsoft] Excel classes, all sorts of them,” Lamb said. “Why send them to Atlanta or wherever when they can do this at their own desk in their own free time while not costing the company a dime?”

Classes can be taken online at one’s own pace and are made up of videos, lessons, instructor interaction and assignments. After signing up through the library’s website, those with a library card can access any class at any time.

Crane said that the partnership with Universal Class started as a way to replace the monthly seminars once held by the GVACC. Because of time and personnel constraints, those seminars were replaced with quarterly Lunch N’ Learn programs, but the chamber of commerce wanted to continue reaching its education and workforce development goals.

“I hated to see the monthly seminars go, but it was not viable for us from a chamber standpoint and we didn’t reach the community,” Crane continued. “This allows us to not only serve the needs of our chambers members in making sure that they have educated, qualified, well-skilled individuals, but it also allows us to reach those that aren’t chamber members.”

Those interested in classes can visit chamberscountylibrary.org.

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