May 23, 2013

Grant program offers low-income Columbia residents $3,000 for job training

The city’s Work It Up job training program is making the money available to city residents who meet certain criteria. See if you qualify inside.

Twenty low-income City of Columbia residents will be awarded grants of up to $3,000 each for job training.

The city’s Work It Up job training program is making the money available to city residents who:

•  Live in the 29203 or 29204 ZIP codes in neighborhoods targeted by the city’s Community Development Consolidated Plan
•  Have a total household income 80 percent or below the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s area median income – $49,050 for a four-person household
•  Are willing to submit to criminal background checks and drug testing

An information session is planned for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Earlewood Park Community Center, 1113 Parkside Drive. The deadline for submitting a grant application is Monday.

“We have the jobs, and we have the workforce,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a statement. “Work It Up brings it all together, providing new opportunities and training in our region’s most dynamic industries to those who need it most.”

Those individuals awarded grants will get job training over the next year in fields including health care, construction and manufacturing through partnerships with Richland 1 Adult Education and Midlands Technical College’s Work Keys Assessments and Quick Jobs Courses.

Money for the grant program came from Nec Users Group, a nonprofit organization that dissolved and directed its remaining money to be used toward jobs, children, homelessness, education and health care. The organization, which formed in 1984 to help share ideas and identify problems for major manufacturers, donated $184,372 to the city after it dissolved, said Gloria Saeed, executive director for the city’s nonprofit TN Development Corp.

“We felt like a job-training program such as this could help in all those areas,” Saeed said.

Saeed expects the city to roll out additional rounds of grants over the next two years.

The program is a way to help the unemployed and underemployed in the community find better paying jobs. The unemployment rate in the Columbia metro area fell to 6.5 percent in April, but some would-be workers have dropped out of the job market and others have taken jobs that pay less than they once made.

“Some may have been laid off, and they’re doing things that, maybe, they’re really capable of doing a little bit more,” Saeed said.

If you go

What: An information session for the city’s Work it Up program, which awards job-training grants of up to $3,000

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Earlewood Park Community Center, 1113 Parkside Drive

Who: The program is for city residents in the 29203 and 29204 ZIP codes whose household income is 80 percent or below HUD’s Area Median Income.

Information: Sign up at or call (803) 545-3767 or (803) 733-8299

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