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Georgia Mountain Workforce Development funds career training
Group aids unemployed, underemployed workers
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Monday morning will mark the first day of Jeremy Caldwell’s new career as a high school science teacher.

“I always felt like teaching would be a great career,” he said. “My top 10 mentors were all teachers, and that is the kind of impact I want to have on the younger generation.”

Caldwell was making a living by doing electrical work when he decided to go after his dream, but he needed a little help to pay for it.

He found that help through Georgia Mountain Workforce Development with the Workforce Investment Act. The act is a federally funded grant that may help unemployed or underemployed adults, youth and dislocated workers obtain career training that would allow them to find gainful employment.

Students must be enrolled in school full time to be eligible to receive help paying for tuition, required books, transportation, meals and child care if needed.

Eligibility is determined by a number of criteria, including income, unemployment and other barriers. Veterans are given priority service and are moved to the top of the list of applicants.

Caldwell said the program has been a “life saver.” Without it he would have spent years paying off his teaching certification.

The state has overseen the grant since 1998 but the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission took over as the grant administrator a little more than a year ago.

John Phillip, Georgia Mountain Workforce Development director, said the program has a few new features since it changed hands. Two mobile classrooms allow for more convenient participation in outlying communities. Weekly overview classes give applicants the opportunity to ask questions and see if they will fit in with the program’s requirements.

More than 250 adults and 154 youth currently participate in the 13-county region.

Phillips said the program is “a gem” that he would like to share with everyone.

“We’re not just getting people educations. We’re getting them jobs,” he said. “Education is a byproduct of jobs. It makes us competitive in the world, in the world economy, and it attracts businesses to the area to have an educated workforce with highly technical skills.”

Students can choose where they go to school from a list of approved training providers. The providers include Brenau University, Gainesville State College, Lanier Technical College and several others in the area.

Students must seek training in one of 66 growth and demand occupations.

All of the occupations are currently in demand in the area and will help the student become self-sufficient.

“Our main objective is to train or educate the workforce to help them find better jobs. We find them a career path that finds them a job,” Phillips said.Youth can also take advantage of the program and get a head start on their careers.

Students between the ages of 14 and 21 can get assistance with after-school tutoring, credit recovery, work experience and training and help paying for their GED.

Veronica Marrioquin, 18, has been involved in the youth service programs since she was 15.  Because of her involvement in the program she’s been able to get real world experience through an internship at the hospital and volunteer work with local organizations. She said the biggest change the program has made in her life was it taught her to carry herself more professionally and encouraged involvement with the community. Marrioquin said she would encourage other young people to get involved with the program.  She said it’s hard for teenagers to find work in a field they’re interested in but getting real work experience makes starting a career much easier.

“Youth is a very important part of the program. We want the youth to be employable and have some type of job skills when they finish school. And we want them to finish school,” Phillips said.

Applications can be picked up from the Workforce Development Office in Gainesville.

The training program will pay $5,500 for the first year of training and will not exceed $8,500 for the entire two-year program.

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