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TCC program recognized for giving a fresh start to those who need it

Mayor Paul Fraim poses with Brandy Reid, left and Jaquana Branch, two spring 2010 graduates.
Mayor Paul Fraim poses with Brandy Reid,
left and Jaquana Branch, two spring 2010 graduates.

Tidewater Community College’s Job Skills Training Program (JSTP) provides a comprehensive approach to job skills training and job placement for individuals facing multiple barriers to employment. Hundreds have gotten a fresh start professionally, finding success primarily in nursing and culinary careers.

In short, the JSTP has made the unemployable employable.

For its efforts, the JSTP will receive a 2012 Exemplary Program Award from the National Council for Continuing Education (NCCET) in a ceremony the weekend of Oct. 13-16 in Reno, Nevada. The award recognizes sustainable, innovative and replicable programs that impact a college’s community.

“The development of the program has been incredible,” said Leslie Boughton, program developer and coordinator for the JSTP. “It has been very, very rewarding to see people get good jobs, buy cars and be removed from public housing. Their children are impacted by this program as well. We are making a dent in generational poverty. This is what a community college should be doing. TCC is truly helping make a difference in its community.”

Boughton initiated the JSTP from the Women’s Center on the former Portsmouth Campus while she was working an internship as a Norfolk State University undergraduate. Today the program has a staff of 13 and works with the social service departments in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach in addition to other community service agencies and referral services. Students must be referred to apply for the program.

The JSTP receives 250 applications each semester, accepting 30 to its certified nursing assistant program and 15 to its culinary arts program. The referred applicants are those who are most challenged in seeking employment. Some lack the direction and resources; others might have former criminal offenses.

Lamecia Jones, unable to find work for four years due to a felony conviction, has flourished since graduating from the program in August 2012. She says the JSTP taught her not to let her past define her future.

“The program gave me a whole new outlook on life,” says Jones, currently employed in a supervisory capacity with Aramark. “It gave me a whole new beginning.”

The key, she says, is staying focused and dedicated for the entire 12 weeks of the JSTP. For more on Jones’ story, click on our Youtube favorites.

Once accepted, students take part in demanding 35-hour per week classes that address all of their needs. Boughton says the holistic approach is necessary for success, as lack of housing, proper attire, transportation and childcare issues impede many from finding work.

When students graduate from the program, they often find jobs, as 90 percent have been placed as nursing assistants, and 80 percent have been placed in the culinary arts. Boughton is especially grateful to Sentara Life Care, which has played a “crucial role in the program’s success.” In addition to providing jobs, Sentara Life Care funds part of the program and donated all of the equipment for the two nursing labs on the Norfolk Campus.

“Without Sentara Life Care, we wouldn’t have a CNA program,” Boughton says.

After graduation, students still reap the benefits of the JSTP. Two case managers are on call 24/7 to address concerns, and employment specialists work with employers and students for up to a year after graduation to ensure any issues are addressed before they reach the human resources office.

The program is a win-win for the student, employer and the community.

“We have hundreds of success stories,” Boughton says. “When you address all of a person’s issues, you give them a chance to be successful. That’s what we do, and we are so blessed to witness the transformation of so many students.”