Bethel Advanced Manufacturing Program Opportunity For New Life

  • May 14, 2013
  • The Examiner
  • The dream of a new life for low wage workers, ex-offenders or first-time Chicago job seekers on the Westside and beyond is no longer beyond reality. And all it requires is a six-month investment in your desire to succeed and a character of commitment.

    Because those are the primary qualifications to receive a free Advanced Manufacturing career education in a preparatory program offered by the Bethel New Life community development organization that began its initial class Monday. “You don’t have to have a high school diploma or a GED; we only require that you pass a drug screening, be 18 years old and have a desire to complete the program,” Bethel New Life Workforce Development Director Donna Germany said last Thursday. The program is still recruiting applicants.

    Germany was joined by Community Economic Development Vice President Ed Coleman at Bethel’s facilities at 4950 W. Thomas St. in the Austin neighborhood. They explained the multi-faceted training program is “not a quick fix” to gaining a stable, high paying manufacturing job in Chicago, but there are minimal qualifying criteria for the opportunity.

    post-1

    “The key word is opportunity,” Coleman said, adding that Bethel, once heavily invested in the since crashed real estate market, is now focusing on providing job and career development services.
    “We decided to do something that would impact people’s lives by getting them sustainable jobs, careers that provide living wages that will also help to stimulate business. So, we have homed in our business and career development perspective on delivering jobs in advanced manufacturing, because there is a great demand for workers in those industries.

    “People are looking for people with those kinds of skills.”

    Coleman also cited a recent World Business Chicago report that identified advanced manufacturing as a “key industry” that helps the Windy City stay on the pace with other big cities around the world in the competition to attract business. It also aligns Bethel’s activities with a citywide need that bodes well for economic opportunity in Westside communities that host a large number of manufacturing concerns.
    Tasked with shaping this new vision of Bethel into the concrete services offered in the Advanced Manufacturing career track, Germany outlined a four-pronged preparatory program aimed at elevating the job prospects of participants beyond low the paying positions of the prevailing possibilities for ex-offenders, entry-level workers or career changers in Westside neighborhoods.

    The program begins with academic skills enhancement training that targets raising student competency to 10th-grade levels in reading and math proficiency to “ensure they can earn advancement and promotion as well as job security.” Employing a differentiated curriculum developed at the University of Tennessee, that training is further complemented by employment readiness preparation and financial literacy education that focuses on healthy money management skills, credit scores and budgeting counseling “to maximize the benefit of resources,” said Germany.

    Bethel also shared the core competency curriculum with five other community services organizations, sponsoring free training sessions to make the program as widespread as possible. “This is how we know the curriculum works,” said Germany, adding that the curriculum is not rooted in a “one size fits all” approach and provides for adjustments to meet the needs of each individual learner.

    Once participants gain the necessary academic skills, they graduate into a 16-week Advance Manufacturing career training course administered by the Breaking Ground nonprofit and taught by an expert with more than 40 years in the industry. Scheduled to begin in mid-June, the class will have students are in class three hours each day for six months of individualized accelerated training that qualifies graduates for National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certification in a number of industries.

    Graduates of the course earn a pair of NIMS certificates that qualify them for positions in quality control, inspection, mill operator, lathe operator and process engineering as well as production control, tool & die, shipping & receiving inspection, CNC (computerized numerical control) operator and CNC setup. Germany said the average starting wage for the jobs average around $12.50-$14 per hour.

    “Many of the students will have jobs waiting for them before they graduate,” said Coleman.

    “This is not a quick fix program,” Germany repeated. “Although the eligibility requirements are really not hard, we do have suitability standards that have to be met. That includes being here on time, making all your appointments, complying with directions and asking questions about something you do not understand.”

    “And it does take a six-month investment of time and desire.”

    “Desire,” emphasized Coleman, “is the key.”