Making a Difference:
KET Adult Education
People had the emotional intelligence, the empathy, to be caregivers but not having a high-school education was blocking their way.
Joe Steier, CEO
Education, spirituality, and innovation are what Joe Steier calls the three pillars of his company, Signature Healthcare, and have become more than just a mission statement.
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"I didn't realize the GED was going to be as big a thing as it was," said Steier, whose Louisville-based company manages 73 long-term care facilities in seven states.
"But I started hearing, behind closed doors, people who would say, 'You know, I never finished high school because I got pregnant or my dad was laid off and I went to work.' People had the emotional intelligence, the empathy, to be a caregiver but not having a high-school education was blocking their way.Ē
GED to Ph.D
KET's GED Connection is a test preparation package of videos produced by KET for adults who have not had the opportunity to finish high school. Students study at their own pace for the GED® tests by watching the television series and using the companion workbooks. Signature provides these materials to employees, gives them a place to study and watch the videos, and foots the bill for the test.
Steier has earned multiple degrees in accounting, business, and education (a doctorate)—not to mention a recently achieved Certified Nursing Assistant certification, the first level of certification many of his employees must pass in order to move along what he calls the "GED to Ph.D." path.
"We had people we were trying to help that we told, "Letís put a résumé together.' But they had no idea how to put a résumé together. And things like finance classes—we wanted to give employees access to all these things that might be holding them back from being good, productive citizens," he said.
"That's why we think KET's suite that they've put together—GED Connection and Workplace Essential Skills—will have huge traction in this senior-care world."
Signature has estimated that approximately 800 of its 11,000 employees could benefit from GED instruction. With about 100 currently enrolled, Signature hopes to expand that number to 200 next year.
'A Social Movement'
Signature, which among its upper management has a vice president for learning, has prepared a convenient place on its website for employee learners to access KET materials. Since its launch for employees, Steier says residents in its facilities and their family members have expressed interest in the courses. In this way, he says, the company can be a positive influence in the community as well.
"What we have tried to do is be more of a social movement than a corporation," Steier said. "When we looked at trying to radically change the level of care, what came out was trying to give the stakeholder/employee a different experience...and that was getting them more of a professional track, and accelerating the tracks that were available—and paying for a larger portion of that."
With a vice president of spirituality also on board, Steier has marshaled the chaplains Signature has in every facility to help along those who wish to get a GED certificate, but might be reluctant to step forward and admit their lack of education. Human resources representative are also trained as liaisons.
"KET has helped us accelerate our Learning Pillar," Steier said. "We saw KET as the perfect partner—and it wasn't just because I had Kentucky roots. There is a great respect for KET because it's a blended learning model. KET has a lot of ways to deliver learning to people."