Workforce Development helps workers get trained


By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

HERTFORD — Sharon Lewis knew while she was growing up that she wanted to do one of two things after graduating from high school.

“The crazy thing is I knew it was between working with kids or nursing,” she said.

So after she graduated from Northeastern High School in 2009, Lewis first tried working in childcare, then got a job working at a doctor’s office in Edenton. However, when the doctor she worked for retired, the office closed and she realized she had to find something else.

A company was hiring people to work providing home health care to older adults, but it wanted a certified nursing assistant credential that Lewis didn’t have.

Thanks to the Northeastern Workforce Development Board, Lewis was able to put herself in a position to get hired as a certified nursing assistant.

“I enrolled at College of The Albemarle, and they (Workforce Development) helped me throughout the whole thing,” Lewis said. “Workforce paid for me to get the stethoscope that I needed, they paid for the uniforms I needed and when I had to have the TB skin shots, they took care of that.”

Workforce Development also paid to keep Lewis’ young son in day care while she was completing her training. She figures without the agency’s help, she’d probably still be working in child care.

Lewis’ work now includes giving clients baths, cooking and cleaning in a home setting.

“I love what I do,” she said. “I love my clients. They enjoy the company and having someone to talk to.”

While she enjoys her job, her work as a nursing assistant pays better and provides her a path for even more growth.

“I still want to go back to school,” she said. “My main goal is to become a registered nurse, but I can take the next step and become a licensed practical nurse.”

Annette Barnes, the Adult/Dislocated Worker Program manager with the Northeastern Workforce Development Board, said the Hertford-based agency works to provide training to people so they can build the skills they need to land good jobs. While each person’s needs may be different, Workforce Development’s goal is to do what it takes to help them be successful, she said.

“Some individuals need the most basic things, like resume assistance or practice with their soft skills,” she said.

Others are seeking a job that may take two years to train for. Workforce Development’s mission is to be there with them to help them meet their goals, she said.

Dave Whitmer, director of Workforce Development, said the program had direct contact with nearly 10,000 people in 2016-17. Some of that work involves employers. About 200 people a year are involved in the program that helps pay tuition and other costs for training.

Some of Workforce Development’s clients contact the agency for help. In other cases, the agency goes out and seeks people who may need assistance.

Workforce Development also helped Tesheena Edmondson get the education and training she needed to earn her CNA credential so she, too, could find a job in health care.

Today Edmondson works at Elizabeth City Health and Rehab. But prior to landing a job as a certified nursing assistant, she wasn’t sure what her future would look like.

Edmondson had worked in hospice and home health in Michigan before moving to Elizabeth City after her mother suffered a stroke. Her mom recovered, but Edmondson, 39, suddenly found herself with a lot of time on her hands. She wanted to find a job in health care but wasn’t certified in North Carolina.

“I have a son, so I can’t just be sitting around. I didn’t want him to see that example,” she said. “I needed to get a job.”

Workforce Development helped Edmondson with expenses such gas for her car, so she could get to the classes she needed to earn her CNA certification. The agency also provided her with a lot of support throughout her training. She describes the assistance “as a blessing.”

Like Lewis, Edmondson says she, too, wants to pursue more education in nursing in the future.

Though based in Hertford under the umbrella of the Albemarle Commission, Workforce Development operates satellite offices in Elizabeth City and Edenton. The program also has “outposts” in Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

Workforce Development employs a staff of about 12 and its programs are funded by about $1.7 million in federal grants.