published Monday, May 27th, 2013

Chattanooga men developing job training program for unemployed men


Men interested in organizing a job training program may call Kenneth Simpson at 355-3021.

Some Chattanooga men are organizing a job training program to put unemployed men — including those with felony records — to work regardless of the obstacles they have to overcome.

"I want to quit throwing my arms up and do something," said District 2 City Councilman Jerry Mitchell.

Nearly half of black males ages 16 to 64 in Alton Park -- 47.8 percent -- are unemployed, while 33 percent in East Chattanooga are without jobs.

Mitchell is one of more than two dozen men including pastors, retired teachers and business leaders in the group. They have been meeting monthly and sometimes twice a month since January, planning how they will help men who lack job skills and men who have felony records find work.

Kenneth Simpson, who organized the group out of the men's ministry at Alton Park's New Emmanuel Church, said they plan to have a budget by August and to have the job training program and resource center in place by January.

Simpson said he has been speaking with Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger about funding the program. He said the mayor first wants to see the group's budget.

Simpson pointed out that Hamilton County spends tens of thousands of dollars a day on its prison system. But fewer people might be in prison if more money were spent to prepare people for jobs, he said.

The Maclellan Foundation asked the men to develop a budget and said it would consider investing in the program.

Job training is needed to connect people to jobs, said Scott Maclellan, president and board chairman of the RL and KH Maclellan Foundation.

"That's the big issue, jobs," Maclellan said. Lots of jobs are available, but people are coming out of school without the skills needed to get them, he said.

"Training programs are key to getting these kids on a level where they can get these jobs," Maclellan said. "Gangs are entrepreneurs, money-makers. They're just in the wrong business. They need to get into jobs that make an honest living," he said.

Simpson's job training program will be among several started in the past year.

Hope for the Inner City started a Jobs For Life program near College Hill Courts in fall 2012. That program targeted men on the Chattanooga Housing Authority's criminal trespass list who wanted job training.

Dr. Elenora Woods, executive director of the Alton Park Development Corp., lined up 150 positions to put teenagers to work this summer.

The job training organized at New Emmanuel Church will offer vocational training such as welding and auto mechanics. It also will provide assistance with soft skills like filling out job applications and interview skills. Organizers also want to raise money to help get participants' records expunged when possible, said Simpson.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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