MOUNT VERNON — Federal stimulus dollars were hard at work in Knox County this summer, funding a program designed to put people back to work. Those dollars funded summer job training programs offered through a partnership between the Knox County Career Center Adult Education program and Opportunity Knox.
Roughly 100 individuals took the plunge. Believing this program would give them certifications quickly as “tools to put in their pockets” for when they go out and interview for jobs, they signed up for classes in health care, computer software, building trades, automotive trades and/or manufacturing.
Diana Williams of Opportunity Knox said that when the agency learned it would receive the funds, it also learned the money had to be spent quickly. Because of an ongoing relationship with the career center, Opportunity Knox contacted human resource development coordinator Myra Wilson.
“The career center adult ed classes are normally held during the evenings September through May,” Wilson said, “but because the labs were standing empty this summer during the day, we were able to pull together instructors who could teach any time of day or evening.”
Williams said pulling the program together so quickly was a Herculean task on Wilson’s part.
“The timing was just incredible. The fact that we got it off the ground and done was amazing,” said Williams. “I can’t say enough good things about the career center. There were people calling [Opportunity Knox] from other counties asking how in the world we got this put together so quickly.”
Williams said she got nothing but positive feedback from clients who participated in the training program this summer.
“Nothing but good feedback — good, good stuff,” she said. “Because of our economy, I think a lot of the people were feeling as if everything is stagnated, that there was nothing they could take control of on their own. This program was something they could do. When they get the opportunity to go back to work or find a new job, our hope is that one little certificate will help them look better than someone else who did not make the effort to go.
“The beginning computer classes were especially helpful,” Williams continued. “Many times older people come in and they just aren’t comfortable using computers. Often today that’s the only way you can do the job application and get involved in interacting with many companies. There’s no face-to-face any more, which is certainly out of a lot of people’s comfort zone.”
Williams said the adult students learned some marketable skills and gained self-assurance and pride in the process.
“This truly was a good way to spend those stimulus dollars,” she said. “Any opportunity people have to gain job skills they never would have had before I think is great.”