NOVEMBER 18, 2009

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Connors Receives Federal Grant

Through combined federal grants totaling $2.1 million, Connors State College will provide educational, training and support services for adults, displaced workers and students for the Eastern Workforce Investment Board.

The $2,162,917 is part federal stimulus money and part federal funds from the Eastern Workforce Investment Board (EWIB), according to Connors President Donnie Nero. The grant is good for 20 months, beginning Nov. 1, and will cover a seven-county area.

The seven counties served by Eastern Workforce include Adair, Cherokee, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okmulgee, Sequoyah and Wagoner.

“The grant will help adults who have lost their jobs because of the downturn in the economy, in addition to other adults and youth looking for employment, or to train for and find jobs,” Nero said.

“Basically the program is helping people find employment and redefine their goals to go to work,” said Patty Garner, director of Workforce Oklahoma’s Muskogee office. We’ll find out what their needs and barriers are and with Connors, we’ll find resources to help them meet and overcome those barriers so our clients can enhance their opportunities to find employment. If our clients need occupation or group training, the program provides for that.”

Nero and Garner emphasized that training is provided in occupations on “approved lists.”

“There are (occupations and training) programs that have been approved and certified by the different colleges in the area,and those are the programs we will focus on,” Nero said. “There are certain demand occupations on the list that we have to make sure that we are placing people in those occupation opportunities.

“The beauty for us (Connors) is that we will be dealing with the adults and youth who will be a part over the program as it develops over the next 20 months. The major component is education and, and then, of course, helping those involved find the best jobs possible.”

The executive director for the Connors program is Jessie Young, a longtime college employee. She has been working on securing the program for sometime.

When the program is fully operational, Young will supervise a staff of 25, each employed by Connors, according to Dr. JoLynn Digranes, CSC executive vice president.

“We will coordinate all of the services available to the target population needs,” Young said. “A big part of the target population will be the youth who sometimes fall through the cracks in securing or keeping a job. Dislocated homemakers are another component of the audience, joining the dislocated workers, adults, and youth.

“Connors has been a provider of services in the past and we weren’t the only one, but us receiving this grant is actually the management of the program. We will have case managers for adults and the youth in all seven counties.”

Nero said the college will provide services to each of the seven counties on a equal basis.

“Just because we are located in Muskogee County does not mean this county will get the lion’s share of the money,” Nero emphasized. “We have to make a concerted effort to make sure the program is available in our service area. That is critical for the program to be successful.”

Young added there will be both a youth and adult case manager in each county. Numbers of staff in each location will depend on the size of the county.

Those interested in the program can sign up at the Eastern Workforce located in each of the seven counties. People wanting assistance may contact the Muskogee Workforce offices at 721 S. 32nd St., or call 682-3364 for information.