Clayton program, VOCTEC, gets locals back to work

By Greg Gelpi

As many make resolutions for the new year, VOCTEC is helping locals resolve to get off of government assistance and obtain full-time employment.

"I think it's great," Chiquita Foster, 27, of College Park said. "It's wonderful. I love it."

Foster, who has been in the program for about a month, is learning clerical skills through hands-on training at Project Real Life in Riverdale.

The VOCTEC Program, which began in September as a part of WORKTEC, offers training and support to those without employment, WORKTEC Training Specialist Karen Perryman said. The program trains participants and matches them with work sites in the community.

"It's a very positive program I have to say," she said. "It's a lot of attitude adjustment, a lot of looking at themselves."

The 13-week program ushers participants back into the workplace, helps them obtain employment and provides a support network after doing so, Perryman said. Much of that is accomplished through changing attitudes and instilling confidence, adding that self-esteem is the "biggest challenge."

Working with each participant, VOCTEC assesses likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses to place people in the job site best suited for them, she said. VOCTEC has established work sites throughout the community which provide work experience and potentially full-time employment.

"We do hope that the goal is to hire the participants," Perryman said. "The biggest thing is dealing with the time, experience and attitudes to get them back into work."

Foster, as many, was referred to VOCTEC by the Division of Family and Children Services and has learned customer service and computer clerical skills, such as the spreadsheet computer program Excel.

"I feel it's educational for me, and it's going to help me in the long run," she said. "It makes me feel great to be here and to learn."

Lisa Johnson, 38, of Riverdale also works at Project Real Life and is undergoing the training as a requirement for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

"I think it's better than just sitting at home," Johnson said, adding that she is learning typing and computer skills.

The training is helping her develop a schedule of getting up in the morning, getting organized and getting her children into daycare, she said.

Carneitha Parham, 23, landed a job with Delta Air Lines after completing the program.

"I recently became unemployed and so it was a stepping stone to employment," Parham said.

VOCTEC helped her write a resume and cover letter, which she said Delta was "very impressed" with.

Along with job readiness, VOCTEC also provides life skills training, Perryman said, such as learning how to balance a check book, create a budget and arrange child daycare.

VOCTEC has a rolling enrollment and holds orientation each Monday, Perryman said. The program had as many as 48 participants in September and will be expanding to allow up to 75.