Chattanooga Program Helps Low-to-Middle Income Workers Earn Google IT Certification

Stacey Bradley, a single mother who lives in East Brainerd, has worked for seven years as a teaching assistant helping students engage with science and technology in Hamilton County schools.

Bradley said she was eager to pursue a career in technology on her own, but the cost of tuition, childcare and lost income to pursue information technology training at the university turned out to be a financial problem.

“I was going to have to come up with about $5,000, which would have been very difficult for me,” she said in an interview on Monday.

Bradley said a dream opportunity opened up for her when she heard about a new training program to help low- and middle-income workers earn Google certification in information technology while being paid to go to school. The program launched with its first class of 10 students last year, and a second class began a similar nine-week course Monday at the Chattanooga Youth and Family Development Center in the Westside.

“This is a great opportunity to update and improve my skills and income and to enter a field with many opportunities,” said Tai Norman, an army veteran who previously worked in the information technologies in the army and is trying to develop an application for employment. placement.

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Training for the FutureEMPACT program offers software training to empower low-income workers, talent for growing businesses

“With certification and placement,” Norman said, “this program almost guarantees you that if you work and complete the course, you’ll get a good paycheck.”

Google’s Information Technology Certification Course provides software and computer maintenance training, plus a $4,500 stipend and childcare to help low-income people improve their job skills and their income. Students who want to go even further in developing their skills can use the program’s 12 college credit hours to take additional training at Chattanooga State Community College or other Tennessee schools.

“Computing is the future, and the sky really is the limit for you,” Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly told Bradley, Norman and other students gathered on the first day of the EMPACT 2022 program. economic mobility for career advancement and training) on ​​Monday morning. . “These credits are transferable, so you can use them as a springboard for even more training from here.”

The training provides both technical training and soft skills training in job interviewing. Each student receives a Chromebook laptop to learn how to use and program, as well as perform hardware patches to maintain these devices. The program also helps with transportation for participants.

Terra Garth, a 30-year-old single mother with three children, moved to College Hill Courts last year and was recently accepted into the scheme. She is able to walk to the training site every day while getting help with childcare.

“I want a professional job, and I think this is a great opportunity to achieve that,” she said during the opening class on Monday.

Fill the talent pool

Organizers say the program not only helps participants, but also Chattanooga’s overall economy by helping to provide more workers for one of Chattanooga’s most in-demand occupations.

“Employers tell us all the time that these are the type of employees they are looking for and sometimes have a hard time finding and retaining,” said Ellis Smith, director of special projects for the City of Chattanooga. , at Monday’s event. “One of our goals is to keep as many good-paying jobs as possible in Chattanooga, which helps meet one of the most important needs of employers today.”

Smith said while there are other training and education programs in the area, the information technology program aims to break down many of the barriers that prevent some workers from getting the training they need. need for high-demand, higher-paying jobs.

“Some of our students have lost their jobs due to COVID; some have lived in public housing for generations and many are the first in their families to get an education beyond high school with this training,” said Charolette Brand, coordinator of the economic mobility program. journalists on Monday during a press conference on the program. “This program can truly change the lives of generations.”

Partner for success

In the first class that graduated in December, eight of the 10 students have completed the nine-week course and three are now working in information technology jobs.

The program is a partnership with Chattanooga State’s Skill-up program, launched two years ago, and the Enterprise Center-sponsored Tech Goes Home program.

The program is funded by the CARES Act Allocations for Community Services Block Grant Program. The city worked with Chattanooga State, the Enterprise Center, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and the American Jobs Center to help launch the program last fall. Rachel Howard, director of the city’s Office of Family Empowerment, told reporters that program organizers are already working on more classes and funding sources once the current class graduates in June.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter @dflessner1.

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