About a dozen East Chicago residents are starting new careers as nursing assistants or semi-truck drivers, as a result of the Holistic Community Coalition's workforce development program.
They'll graduate Friday at a community fair, where the East Chicago-based nonprofit group also will recognize UPS for making a $10,000 donation to upgrade its computer laboratory. Residents who attend the event can learn more about the job training program, educational opportunities at Ivy Tech or financial advice they can get from Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northwest Indiana.
Barbeque will be served at the fair, which will take place between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday at the Holistic Community Coalition's office at 3724 Main Street, East Chicago.
"This is an opportunity for the residents of East Chicago to learn about what resources they can take advantage of, whether that's assistance with workforce development or foreclosure prevention," said the Rev. Darnell Johnson, who heads the nonprofit group. "There are programs that could help them keep their homes and stay in their homes."
The Holistic Community Coalition offers residents a wide array of programs, including mentoring at-risk youth, weatherizing homes for seniors, and placing working people in rehabilitated homes that would otherwise sit vacant.
Most of the funding comes from The Foundations of East Chicago, a citizen-run foundation that awards casino revenue to local churches, schools and nonprofits.
Since 2011, the coalition has run a workforce training program for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The goal is to assist the unemployed, and advance the underemployed, as well as workers who are looking for new careers, Johnson said.
Residents learn job-hunting skills, such as what to put on a resume and how to handle difficult job interview questions. They get taught soft skills that they'll need in the workplace, such as being punctual, dressing professionally and making eye contact.
The coalition works with Ivy Tech to help residents get nursing assistant certifications or commercial driver's licenses, and then partners with the Schneider National trucking company and local health care providers to get them placed in jobs, Ivy Tech vice chancellor Louis Gonzalez said.
Last year, the workforce development program helped place 150 East Chicago residents in jobs. Johnson estimates they earned about $1.2 million a year in wages, not including any raises or promotions they may have subsequently earned.
"That helps the city," Johnson said. "They can buy homes and spend their money at local businesses, and that fuels the local economy."