University Park, IL,
15:09 PM

SXL training programs help minority adults get back to work


It is no secret that people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic statewide. That’s why as a majority minority institution, and emerging Hispanic Serving Institution (eHSI), Governors State University (GSU) and its School of Extended Learning (SXL), work to educate, advocate for, and prepare the new majority workforce with today’s most sought-after career skills.

Amid disparities that highlight the challenges underrepresented communities face, programs like SXL are vital.  In the first quarter of 2021, Black unemployment was reported at 13.3%, according to the Economic Policy Institute, versus white unemployment at 6.1%. Early in the pandemic the largest group to drop out of the workforce was working mothers at a rate almost double that of men (15.1%), according to The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI).

Illinois’ women, and especially minority women, are driving the state’s employment recovery at 96% and 75% respectively, IPI reported in late 2021. SXL is helping to re-train this talented workforce segment to help the region bounce back and fill in-demand positions across multiple industries, including healthcare, legal support professions, information technology, business, human resources, and more. SXL is an approved Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program provider, so often-times adults who qualify re-train for free. Others utilize one of SXL’s other flexible payment options.

Ariel Harris-Blacher is one example, who is now employed at a law firm in Naperville, IL. She found SXL’s payment options and above-and-beyond customer service critical to her success. She attended GSU for the Paralegal certification program, where her teachers were understanding and always willing to work with their students. 

“The work was challenging but taught me a lot and prepared me for my preferred profession,” she said. “I utilized the Sallie Mae loan to help me pay and complete the program. Throughout the process, many people helped me and guided me, and for that I am truly thankful.”

An overwhelming majority of people using SXL services are women, but GSU alumni Justin Smith is an example of why more men should be too.

He credits his renewed corporate interest to his recent Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program through SXL, noting it was “life altering.” 

 “It is a class that helped me look at my own life from the lens of a continuous improvement cycle, and it challenged less developed areas in my life and habits that needed to be eliminated,” Smith said. “The class ignited a new level of confidence in me, and now I am aggressively pursuing my future. I would strongly suggest that anyone interested in management take this class.”

In addition to those benefits, he said the class helps you dissect "your why"."

“In our ‘why’ is where the real conversations begin,” he said. "It is the purpose for our path and the ‘why’ is the path for our purpose. Since I have taken the course and made it known that I successfully completed the course,  companies have been calling in excess!”

SXL’s Executive Director Amy Barsha said Ariel and Justin are two examples of why she finds her work rewarding. 

“One of the bright sides of this very difficult time has been the increased recognition of the value of continuing education as a tool to improve economic outcomes and equity in the workforce," she said. "The job market is shifting so much, and so rapidly, it can be difficult to land a job if solely relying on a degree you earned a while ago, and even more difficult if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while. We see moms who’ve been managing a household as a valuable talent pool for companies or adult students right out of college as emerging leaders. With the right career training or certification, they could be your next Supervisor.”

SXL is also proud to work with GSU’s degree programs to augment the student experience with the latest credentials to maximize career readiness for people of color and all workers. Some of the trainings even count as credit towards a degree, like the CompTIA A+, Network + or Security + certifications, or Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

For more information on upcoming programs, or to download the spring catalog, visit and follow SXL on Facebook @GSUSXL and LinkedIn.