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Sylacauga man earns high school diploma, lands job after completing SAFE ‘Workforce Ready’ program


SYLACAUGA, Ala. – The Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement Workforce Ready program is changing lives one person at a time.

The program helps people get on the fast track to landing a job in many different fields across the area. It does this in many different ways including helping attendees obtain the proper qualifications, certifications, a GED and sometimes a high school diploma.

The completely voluntary, career-pathway program partners with Central Alabama Community College and has an instructor, Evelyn Hale, on site three days per week to guide people into a better future.

Many types of employers partner with Workforce Ready, including industry and financial institutions, throughout the process. While participants are working through the curriculum, they are visiting potential employers such as Nemak, American Foam Cast Renasant Bank and more. This provides networking opportunities where future employers can build a rapport with potential future employees.

Lamar Cook, 36, is one of many impacted by the program at SAFE. Cook was scheduled to graduate high school 18 years ago in 2001, but never did. Through, Workforce Ready, Cook’s life has been changed, and 18 years after his expected high school completion date, he has earned his high school diploma while having a job lined up with Nemak.

For many, starting a program like Workforce Ready can be filled with anxiety, that was the case for Cook.

“When I started I was kind of nervous because I did not know what to expect,” he said. “When I came in I communicated with the instructors, and they motivated me and drove me to do everything I can while I still have a chance to do it.”

Maybe the most significant aspect of Workforce Ready is how it is structured. The program is not the same for each individual that walks through the door. Instructors sit down and work through goals, expectations and aspirations and then customize the program for for each pupil.

Cook described his time between then and now as “downhill” and credited Workforce Ready for preparing him for a career. “Life has been downhill for me since high school, but you have to make a choice to climb back up” he said. “I came here to get help, and since then I’ve been here climbing the ladder. I finally feel good about myself.” Cook was the star student of the program, one of his instructors, John Chatman, said. He explained that Cook was always out in front, being a leader for the rest of those in Workforce Ready.

According to Lecia Whiteside, Workforce Ready program manager, Cook has been a hot commodity among potential future employers. She explained Cook has been ready to take a step into the work force for quite some time, and has had employers inquiring to hire him for a while.

“He could have gone to work two months ago,” said Whiteside. “But since he was so close to earning his diploma, he chose to finish and focus on his diploma. He did it and we are so proud.”

Cook has two children and a new-born baby. His oldest daughter just completed high school and will attend Alabama State University beginning in the fall.

So far 11 people have been placed in careers while another four are expected to join the workforce soon.

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