Workforce development program prepares lifelong learners for new career path

Josue Carisma (center) with Saif Y. Ishoof (left) and President Mark B. Rosenberg (right) during the Urban Potential Laboratories graduation ceremony.

–By Ashley Mielke for FIU News

Josue Carisma dedicated more than half of his life to the sales industry, leveraging a high school diploma to support his family. After more than 20 years in the industry, he realized there was nothing left for him to achieve and no room for growth.

“After a while, I wanted to upgrade myself to a certain extent. The next step was for me to either go into sales in a different field or start a new career,” Carisma said.

Learning new skills would be essential to his growth. That’s when Carisma discovered FIU’s newest workforce development program, Urban Potential Laboratories (UP Labs), a 14-week certificate program that elevates those with high school diplomas, certifies them with health care skills, and helps them find well-paying jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree.

On Saturday, June 15, Carisma celebrated the completion of 14-weeks of learning, alongside 22 other lifelong learners, at the first-ever UP Labs Graduation Ceremony. The ceremony celebrated the learners’ new skills in medical terminology, medical office procedures, medical assistant duties and other general health care administration tasks.

In addition, the learners of Cohort I walked away with an FIU Urban Potential Laboratories Certificate of Completion, a Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers Certification from the American Heart Association, and Continuing Education Units from FIU’s Office of Continuing Education.

“Personally, this program, what it does, it gives me a sense of accomplishment and it makes me feel that I can better myself and be a better husband, a better father, a better human being, overall,” Carisma said.

While some members of the first cohort will use their skills and certifications to find jobs in the industry, Carisma is interested in taking his lifelong learning one step further. Immediately following the program, he submitted his application to FIU, in the hopes of expanding his knowledge in health care administration.

Carisma added: “It’s a dream for me to come to FIU. Since I’ve been coming to this program for almost three months, it’s like a second home to me now. So, I would love to go to FIU.”

Josue Carisma practicing taking blood pressure during a hands-on training class at FIU’s STAR Center.

Supported by the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation, Urban Potential Laboratories is able to serve underemployed populations in Miami-Dade County and expand economic opportunity.

“J.P. Morgan Chase sees a pressing need to expand the access to opportunity and enable more people to share the rewards of a growing economy,” Shekeria Brown—vice president and community relations manager in the Office of Nonprofit Engagement at J.P Morgan Chase—explained to the learners during their graduation. “We’re proud to partner with FIU to invest in your skills development, aspirations and potential.”

At FIU, the future of work presents an opportunity to collaborate with partners, like J.P. Morgan Chase, to build high impact programs for learners, like Carisma, who desire to up-skill themselves.

Noting the importance of lifelong learning and skills development, President Mark B. Rosenberg told the graduates: “In the future, we might not all be students, but we all must become learners. I want to thank you, graduates, for having the courage to get involved, the tenacity to continue in a new program, and I want to urge you to believe that you can now use the skills that you have to make a difference.”

Rick Beasley, who oversees workforce programs in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in his role as executive director of CareerSource South Florida, said FIU is on the cutting edge of skills development in higher education.

“I sit on a number of national boards, and I don’t know of any four-year public research institution that’s doing anything like this to help build and train our talent, except FIU,” he said.

Housed in FIU’s Office of Engagement, the program’s curriculum was developed by FIU’s Office of Continuing Education in collaboration with industry advisors from Baptist Health South Florida, Memorial Health System and Health Foundation of South Florida.

Cohort II starts on July 20. Interested applicants can apply at uplabs.fiu.edu.

Urban Potential Laboratories (UP Labs) Cohort I stands with instructors, sponsors, and the entire FIU team following their graduation ceremony.

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About Clara-Meretan Kiah

Clara-Meretan Kiah is a content strategist for FIU Foundation, Inc., and an alumna of FIU's College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts and The Honors College.