Chattanooga officials attempt to train workers before expected job surge

Chattanooga officials attempt to train workers before expected job surge

March 7th, 2016 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Dr. David Banks

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

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City government officials believe more jobs are coming to Chattanooga and they want more people qualified to work.

Officials launched an initiative this month in which government staff will offer job skills training to as many groups as possible, including people who are homeless or have felony records.

"The progress and the prosperity of Chattanooga is for all citizens, not just for those with middle and upper incomes," said Lurone "Coach" Jennings, administrator of the city's Youth and Family Development Department. "But we're trying to tap into that lower-wage-earning community to help them rise up and be a part of the greater success of the city."

The website advertised 3,411 jobs in the city on Friday including truck drivers, customer service representatives, administrative assistants and a German translator.

In December 2015 Chattanooga's unemployment rate was about 5.2 percent, just slightly above the national average of 5 percent. About 13,246 people were unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jennings hired Dr. David Banks, the city's director of career development, to help people with no or few job skills get ready for work. His goal is to partner with as many nonprofit groups as possible that are already serving people who need jobs. Banks wants to eventually teach leaders at the nonprofits to continue the training.

Banks holds a doctorate in psychology from Jacksonville Theological Seminary. He also led leadership training for the Chattanooga Police Department under former Chief Jimmie Dotson.

He developed his first partnership with Family Promise, a shelter for homeless families, this year. He intends to meet monthly with residents about three hours a day. His class, called "My Next Step: You Are Designed to Move Forward," started Saturday.

Most of his students are unemployed women with children. Many of the women have low self-esteem and have suffered abuse, Family Promise case worker Erika Hughes said.

Hughes said Banks is part of the agency's holistic approach to prepare women for self-sufficiency.

Sonya Burrell, a homeless, unemployed grandmother at Family Promise, took Banks' class earlier this year. While at the agency she got the resources she needed; now she's expecting to move into her two-bedroom rental next week and eventually to work as a home sitter for the elderly.

The class "prepares you mentally and physically," she said. "A lot of folks don't know how to dress to make themselves presentable for a job."

Banks said his niche is that he not only teaches resume writing and interview skills, but he helps clients become more aware of themselves.

His class focuses on self-discovery, people skills, professional dress, relationship skills and work ethics.

"I don't care what kind of resume you have," Banks said. "If you can't get along with your co-workers or your boss, you can forget it, regardless of what your resume looks like."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfree or 423-757-6431.