New Bern, NC – A soup kitchen and homeless shelter in a economically depressed part of New Bern is not your traditional classroom setting, but some students in the East are using the facility to practice for jobs they hope to eventually land. A new partnership between Craven Community College and Religious Community Services in New Bern is allowing these students to get "hands-on" experience and certifications that will help them in the future. Executive Director of Workforce Development at Craven Community College Eddie Foster.
"we basically met down at the RCS at the annex and what we ended up doing is looking at this vision of how we could introduce training into the five points area to make it where the students would be able to access excellent training without worrying about the cost of getting to the college."
Religious Community Services and Craven Community College started talking about the partnership in November. Two months later, the classes became a reality at the old RCS facility on George Street in downtown New Bern.
"they thought the facility we had would work well for what they had to offer. And we thought what they had to offer would work well for what we were working to provide for folks."
Mike McMillian is the Executive Director of RCS. He says the pilot program will allow them to offer even more usable services to people who come to them for assistance.
"part of the process of helping them is tying them into an educational component so they can complete an educational period of instruction and complete that term and obtain a job certification that is recognized throughout the nation. And then take that job certification and be able to get a job and then not have to be in a situation where they need to come back through for services."
As part of the Workforce Development Learning Center's Community Up program, students have access to training programs that teach skills to help them earn certificates and find jobs. Currently, there about 40 students enrolled in two employment readiness classes, as well as GED, and English as a Second language programs. The classes are being held at the old RCS building in the Five Points community of New Bern. Each class costs $175 dollars but grants are available to offset the price of registration. Foster says the construction program class with Habitat for Humanity helps build energy efficient homes for low-income families.
"our students learn the basics of how to set out and read a blueprint, the specifications of a home, using all of the measuring devices, being able to use all of the hand tools, being able to use all of the power tools."
Students will practice their building knowledge by constructing sheds that will later be auctioned off. The money raised will help pay students' registration fees. RCS Director Mike McMillian.
"They are presently building an out-building, a storage type building right outside of the classroom setting and they will be using that to store their tools and things of that nature. They also looked at our warehouse where we store a lot of the products that are donated to us and they are looking to help us build shelves.
"Upon completion of the course, students will receive their Residential Green Building certificate. Another class available through the partnership teaches students cleaning techniques for commercial settings.
"part of the training for those folks taking that class need to do as a practical matter is to clean different surfaces in different areas, kitchen flooring, regular tile flooring, bathrooms, ceramic tile flooring, upholstered furniture just different places that need cleaning to certain industrial standard. They've asked if we have such places that need cleaning and we have lots of those places."
Beginning in March, Craven Community College will begin a 50 hour Medical Technician class at RCS. Director of Workforce Development Eddie Foster says this class one is also designed to put people to work.
"That program will be able to take in generate a good pool of applicants that would go for entry level positions at the hospital and other health care facilities."While the program is still in its infancy, Foster says if the construction program is any indication, the health programs offered will help students get employed.
"We have already through our green construction trades program we've had students who have physically received jobs through going through this training program."
McMillian says the new partnership will have effects well beyond the workplace.
"we have one lady who is at our homeless shelter who is currently taking the industrial cleaning class. She hopes that upon completion of the class she will be employable and be able to move out of the shelter and have a full-time job and receive an income and be on her own and be self-sufficient."
Foster says Craven Community College is reaching out to local industries to help students find work.
"we are discussing with Hatteras Yachts, we are discussing with a representative from the Wal-Mart, we are discussing with a representative with Eastern Insulation Company that our graduates would be able to interview for positions, good solid paying jobs upon completion of these programs."
The future is bright not only for the people going through the program, but the partnership itself. RCS Director Mike McMillian says he hopes Craven Community College will consider using its commercial kitchen to offer culinary classes.
"we have food which we prepare on a daily basis through our soup kitchen we have a hundred and twenty thirty people that come through that are in need of a hot meal and then we could also use the benefit of the industrial cleaning folks to help clean those areas after they're being used."
The next round of classes will begin in the summer. For more information, go to the Craven Community College website, www.cravencc.edu. Jared Brumbaugh, Public Radio East.