OPINION

Job training making a difference in our community

The Examiner

It is great to see things returning to some semblance of normal as we emerge from the COVID fog. We see our communities coming back to life as more people are vaccinated. Businesses all over town are dusting off the 2020 grime, opening their doors and looking forward to a busy and profitable summer season.

Phil Hanson

But for many families, it may not be an easy adjustment to get back to life as it was pre-COVID. Low-income families faced many additional hardships during the pandemic, which took its toll. According to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, low-income families suffered higher job loss, food insecurity and psychological distress during the pandemic than higher-income families. It's no wonder people are looking to create a better, more stable future for themselves and their children.

That is where the Job Skills for New Careers program comes into play, to fill the educational gap and offer a pathway to a career. A collaborative program between the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, the Community Services League, the Mid-Continent Public Library, KC Scholars and the University of Central Missouri, Job Skills for New Careers offers low-income adults the opportunity to learn a new skill in a high-paying, in-demand field at no charge.

We currently provide six training opportunities: medical coding and billing, welding, certified nurse assistant, phlebotomy, construction, and materials handling. So in just a few short weeks or months, adult learners can be fully trained and ready to start work. In addition to learning skills in their future profession, all trainees receive one-on-one coaching in personal finance, workplace relations and problem-solving, setting them up for professional and personal success. Plans are already underway for additional training tracks to build the program and meet the community's needs.

They say it takes a village. In this case, it took 44 fund holders at Truman Heartland Community Foundation. Understanding the impact such a comprehensive program could have, these donors chose to pool their giving, totaling $125,000, to support the Job Skills for New Careers program. This generous funding will support the current program efforts and help expand the program to encompass a more diverse array of career field opportunities.

This program works. We launched it at the start of the pandemic, and despite this headwind in 2020, the program's graduation rate was 78 percent, well above the industry standard for workforce development programs. Just imagine what the classes in 2021 will achieve!

If you or someone you know is interested in getting out of a dead-end job and into a career with a real future, or if you are an employer looking for well-trained candidates to fill your open positions, contact Debby at the Career Services department at the Community Services League at 816-912-4487 or lauferd@cslcares.org. Together, with thoughtful donors from Eastern Jackson County and the surrounding communities, we will improve the economic status of individuals and families and provide businesses the qualified candidates they need to succeed.

Phil Hanson os the president and CEO of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, based in Independence.