Triad unemployed take advantage of ‘back to work program

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Three Triad technical colleges are putting $2.1 million in state grant money to use this Fall by selecting qualified unemployed locals to get free skills training to improve their chances in the job market.

Amongst the three community colleges, Guilford Technical Community College received $879,711, Forsyth Tech received $711,682 and Davidson County Community College received $514,066 for their job prep programs.

GTCC has already selected several students who are studying technical skills right now. Some of them are in machining classes, training to be CNC programmers, who run and program computer-operated machines that shape and cut metal and plastic.

"If it weren't for these funds, I wouldn't be in school. I would still be out there struggling, looking for a job," said  52-years-old, Wesley Ivins. He may not look like a typical student but he's hoping machining classes will land him a good-paying job in a few months.

Ivins has been depending on temp work since he was laid off three years ago.

"I'm looking for something solid and stable. I didn't think I qualified for any programs. To find out that I did for this one was very comforting to me," said Ivins.

He says he's one of the older students in his classes and, despite age, many of the others are unemployed, too.

"People my age are going through stuff that I'm going through -- there is something out there for us... that's very comforting," said Ivins.

Matt Davis, 30, was also selected for the "Back to Work" program through GTCC.

"I've flipped burgers, I've spent time in an auto shop working in cars. I've done this and that. I'm looking for something I can pin down the rest of my life as a career," said Davis.

Davis says the grant is changing his life.

"This program's a game changer for those who can't go back to school or who are afraid of student loans and being in debt for 20 years. Or for those who just can't afford it," said Davis."'Back to Work' is a great opportunity, and I'm thankful for it."

GTCC Department Chair Derek Seeke has no doubt these men will find a job once they finish their training as CNC programmers.

"I can not keep up with employers calling me at least once a week, looking for highly-skilled workers," said Seeke. "This area... it's booming. From aviation to medical to aerospace, it's growing leaps and bounds around here."

Ivins believes younger people who have yet to join the job force should consider studying a skilled trade.

"Nowadays if you don't have a skilled trade, you're gonna be floundering," said Ivins. "I advise younger people in high school and in their twenties to develop a skill. The jobs are out there if you invest in the training now. It's only going to grow."

North Carolina's state legislature set aside $5 million total for the "Back to Work" program. $2.1 million came to the Triad. Distribution was based on the prevalence of people who've exhausted unemployment benefits or who are getting close to exhausting those resources.

Qualified candidates must have been out of work for at least 26 weeks and meet aptitude tests for technical skills.