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It’s “work” with and “e” at WREC, a job training program Hernando County has partnered with to help those impacted by job losses and reduced wages due to COVID-19.

A new program to help those who lost jobs or wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off recently with its first “Experience Day” event.

Workforce. Entrepreneurship. Research. Community., otherwise known as WERC Hernando, is billed as a “modern workforce training program and is free to Hernando County residents. The program’s focus is to provide training for individuals seeking good-paying IT careers to supplement income lost due to the pandemic, according to Kasey Kupcik, Hernando County public information officer. Hernando, along with Pasco-Hernando State College, the University of Florida and Google, are partners.

Participants must provide documentation that they have been adversely affected by the pandemic and have lost a job, some work or had wages reduced. Everything prospective participants need to know and a link to an application form is online at www.innovationcollective.co/werc/.

“Hernando County is thrilled to announce we have partnered with a rapid learning program called Workforce Entrepreneurship Research and Community,” according to a release from Kupcik. “The goal of the program is to help community members build the future they want through a series of online and offline training, community events and mentorship from local and national experts.

“The county is excited about this collaboration as it will help to stimulate job growth in our community.”

The program kicked off Oct. 7 at PHSC’s north campus in Brooksville. It was also available online for those attending remotely.

Attendees learned about the IT career skills offered, which include network protocols, cloud computing, the Windows operating system, Linux command-line, system administration and encryption algorithms and techniques. The skills can be used to get a certification in various IT fields and get a better job. They also can be used by participants to help launch their own businesses.

One of the best aspects of the training is that it can be done online and can lead to jobs that allow people to work remotely from home, particularly important as the pandemic continues.

“WERC provides training in the kinds of jobs that pay more and can be done from virtually anywhere,” according to the introduction at the WERC website. “Using a combination of self-paced online training, technical mentors, and digital cohorts, you can get certified quickly and put your new skills to work in fields like information technology”

Once enrolled, participants will be issued a laptop from the WERC Lending Library if needed. They are then assigned to a mentor, and establish a weekly meeting schedule where they will be able to ask questions, get help, and help hold each other accountable.

For the following 80 days learners will learn new skills and upon completion of the program receive industry recognized Career Certification from Google that verifies “you know your stuff and have the skills to start working in IT.”

Participants in the program do not need any experience in the IT field, and the training received at no cost can save students a much larger investment in time and money, according to program information

The program is administered by Innovation Collective, an education and human capital company based in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Its mission is to “reengage and empower those who feel most disconnected.