Graduates from Chattanooga's Enterprise Center's workforce, job training program ready for work

Graduates from Chattanooga's Enterprise Center's workforce, job training program ready for work

October 18th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Alicia Cosme, Christina Cosme and Ayanna Cosme, from left, look at the various certificates that Christina Cosme received at the Environmental Job Training Program graduation ceremony, held at the Urban League Ballroom in downtown Chattanooga on Wednesday.

Photo by Alyson Wright/Times Free Press.

TO SIGN UP

* What: Applications are being taken for the next group of participants interested in the Enterprise Center's Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program.

* When: The next 13-week session is scheduled to start in January.

* Sign up: Applications are available at the Southeast Tennessee Career Development Center in Eastgate, at the Enterprise Center on Market Street and at the Chattanooga Housing Authority's main office at 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave. Applications are also available online at www.theenterprisectr.org. Click on "Brownfields," then click on "News, Presentations, Videos & Photos," then look under "Documents."

* The training: Courses cover aerial lift training, fall protection and confined space entry preparation, heavy equipment operation, first aid, lead-based paint awareness instruction, underground storage tank awareness, mold and asbestos remediation and Class A commercial driver's license training.

With the skills they have learned, nearly 20 Chattanooga residents who had minimum-wage, part-time jobs or no jobs at all hope to be employed full-time by year's end and making a minimum of $10 an hour.

All participated in the Enterprise Center's Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program and came away certified in several areas, including hazardous waste operations and emergency response, construction and general industry. The certifications are recognized by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The first graduating class completed the 13-week training course and participated in a graduation ceremony Wednesday. Three of the 18 graduates have been offered jobs; one is already working.

"We're all just trying to better ourselves," said Greg Martin, a graduate who spoke during the program. "We want to make good paychecks so we can be better citizens."

The program is sponsored by a $300,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency grant. The money will be awarded over three years to help a total of 75 people get jobs.

Former photographer and graduate Cheryl Turnage said she hopes to find a job that enables her to pay her bills.

And Christina Cosme, a mother of four, said she has a bachelor's degree in political science but still hasn't found steady work. With the skills gained through the training program, she hopes to get a job inspecting factories.

Program coordinator Donna Van Natten, who holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership, said the Enterprise Center will do all it can to make sure its graduates get jobs.

The center's success with the grant is determined by the participants' employment. To be counted a success according to EPA grant standards, participants must work full-time in a job for one year making at least $10 an hour.

Enrollees in the program must have a high school diploma or GED and pass a drug test and criminal background check. Having a criminal record doesn't automatically disqualify a person from the program, said Van Natten.

Chattanooga Housing Authority director of resident services Carol Johnson helped recruit job training participants, including at least two residents receiving housing assistance. Johnson encouraged graduates to let other people know about the experience they had taking the course.

"You have only just begun," she told graduates Wednesday. "There are going to be a lot of opportunities available to you."