Classes While on Unemployment

Training Opportunity Program – Earn a Certificate or Degree while on Unemployment

The Training Opportunity Program allows you to collect unemployment benefits while you attend full-time, approved training for new job skills. If you need new skills in order to get a new job, you may be eligible for the Training Opportunities Program (TOP). To participate, you must submit your application to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). If you meet the eligibility requirements, TOP allows DUA to waive your active work search. You will continue to receive your unemployment benefits unemployment insurance benefits while in agency-approved training.

Under certain circumstances, participants may be eligible for up to an additional 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits while attending full-time training. In order to be eligible for up to the 26-week extension, you must apply to the Division of Unemployment Assistance before your eligibility period ends. Students are responsible for finding and obtaining funding for their training.

Am I eligible for the Training Opportunities Program?

You may be eligible for the TOP program if:

  • You have filled and are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
  • You no longer work for your former employer.
  • You will have difficulty getting a new job unless you learn new skills.
  • You have the basic skills needed to complete and benefit from the training.
  • You complete your TOP application within the first 20 weeks that you receive our unemployment benefits.
  • Your training program is full time and approved by the TOP unit.

Additional Requirements

The program of your choice MUST:

  • Be full-time – at least 20+hours/week of supervised class hours for vocational/technical training or at least 12 credit hours per semester for a college program
  • Be intensive so that you are able to complete it within two years or less (including vacations, class breaks, internships/externships etc.)
  • Provide vocational/technical or basic skills training
  • Clearly identify the occupation for which you will be trained

TOP Application Process Steps

  • ApplyOnline or at the Gardner, Leominster, or Devens campuses.
  • Schedule a placement test or provide prior college transcripts: Contact the Testing Services Department at 978-630-9244. Prior college transcripts showing completed college-level English and math courses may be provided to waive any testing requirements.
  • Obtain a Training Opportunity Program application: Call the DUA’s TOP’s Unit at 617-626-5521.
  • Meet with a TOP Advisor: When developing your educational plan with an MWCC advisor, please remember that TOP requires that you complete your program within two years. You must attend full-time (20 hours per week or 12 credits per semester). Unemployment benefits may end before the completion of this program. Applicants are advised to speak with a DUA representative to find out about the length of their unemployment benefits.
  • Submit proof of immunization: Massachusetts law requires that students present a physician’s certificate or school immunization records to be registered at an institution of higher learning (some exceptions may apply).
  • Find funding for your education: The Division of Unemployment Assistance does not have funds to help pay for your training. DUA’s approval of your training means only that DUA will waive the requirement that you look for work while you are collecting unemployment insurance, and that you may be eligible for up to a 26-week extension of your UI benefits while you are attending training. To help secure funding to help pay for your education, begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you need any assistance in applying for financial aid, contact the Financial Aid Office at 978-630-9169. You should also check with your local career center to see if they have training funds available.
  • Submit your TOP application: Submit your forms at least three weeks prior to the start of training and before your eligibility period ends.
  • Once you receive approval, you may begin your program of study!

Note: If you have previous college experience and could finish the degree or certificate you previously started, this may also qualify for the Training Opportunity Program.

Training Opportunity Program benefits are subject to change without notice and MWCC is not responsible for changes to the program.

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