SUNY Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center: Prepared for Changes in How We Learn

SUNY Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center aka EOC has been an important component to learning and job training in Syracuse for decades.  With a rapidly changing economy and workplace, EOC in recent years expanded their role in aiding their eclectic client base. There are programs that fit a variety of needs; preparing for and obtaining your High School Equivalency, training for specific careers that lead to employment. Several of their programs are approaching an 80% employment rate after graduation.

Syracuse EOC is poised to become even more important to the community as we transition to distanced learning online, as we are seeing, the future calls for socially distancing for in-person training. Vice President of EOC, Tim Penix explains the role of the educational facility and how they have been planning for this by emergency by investigating a variety of service delivery methods. During this period, it’s an ongoing effort to deliver needed training. The Pandemic forced an acceleration of changes already on the drawing boards.

Being at the tail end of some of their programs even with the “pause” enabled some students to finish their coursework.  “We’re at the tail end of one Construction Class, one Advance Construction class and one Certified Nursing Assistant class.” According to Penix.

For example, EOC was teaching their, Healthtrain course through June, which is an introduction to the healthcare field. Due to the pandemic training was transitioned to online. As classes were cancelled or transitioned to online learning, EOC took to Facebook in an effort to provide a sense of continuity to their students.

List of the most recent Course Offerings by Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center
  • College Preparation
  • Healthtrain
  • High School Equivalency
  • First Step Forward – English for speakers of other languages
  • ProTrain Manufacturing
  • Computer Software Training
See Gallery of most recent training programs below 

Syracuse EOC partners with CenterstateCEO and companies such as Loretto to provide training for various entry level positions. As more companies move into the area perhaps due to Amazon’s Fulfillment Center, along with manufacturing jobs at the old Coyne Laundry site; training has never been more important. And with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, and questions about returning to the classroom, hybrid education delivery is the new norm, for the time being.

When discussing the sudden closure Penix says, “We were a little ahead of the rest of the schools due to the fact that we’re not a campus with residential students. Right at the stage when we were crossing over into another term.”

EOC Vice President Tim Penix and NYS Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter

It was also important to get faculty/trainers on board. The question for all institutions became, “how do we transition?” Penix allowed the staff to provide a number of methods of training remotely, “What was important, was not a mandated they do x y or z. What we ended up getting was a few variances on distance learning. But through it, we came up with 4 or 5 different methods from various teachers that we’re going to explore this Fall.”

They’re also recognizing some advantages for some to distance learning, Penix continues, “For some of our programs, the difference has been when you don’t have that classroom setting you miss out and the class progresses, with this it’s more individualized.” Therefore, for students who had difficulty making a class schedule, online learning will give those students the tools to learn at their own pace and catch up with the class, where in the past the student may drop out.

“We can enroll more students, have more success”, the difficulty as described by Penix is with the digital divide. “We’ll have to something like mobile access or Chromebooks available for students”

When it comes to COVID-19; EOC along with our areas educational institutions are following CDC guidelines, Penix states, “we are different from a campus, because we’re not dealing with bringing in students to live. EOC is dealing with people who have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. New York State EOC’s are on the front lines of bringing people back.”