WIOA offers free career training in Fairfield

Robinson: Our Goal is to Prepare Them for The Workplace

Diana Robinson, right, Director of Fairfield’s WIOA program, congratulates these students who graduated with certification as Emergency Technicans with the help of the WIOA program. From left: Sloan Simpson, Cornelius Robinson, Layla Zarif, Shalejah Jackson, Javien Thompson and KeShawn Roseborough. Not shown: DeAzah Carroway. | Contributed

WINNSBORO – The first time Diana Robinson heard about WIOA – the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – she was in search of a job, having found herself out of work following a layoff at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in 2017.

She was hired as a case manager and later promoted to serve as director for the county department and charged with administering the program which, she says, not enough people know about.

She says the bottom line is this: through WIOA, free training – and a host of wraparound services – is available for a variety of careers, whether you want to become an EMT, a truck driver, a welder or work in a variety of other jobs in fields from health care to information technology.

Those training programs are offered through Midlands Technical College, Fairfield campus. Through WIOA, you can take them for free.

“We’re here to help,” Robinson says. “There’s no catch.”

The federally funded program includes a variety of services to help unemployed people join the workforce – whether they are young and seeking a career path, out of work following a job loss, seeking employment with a disability, re-entering society after a period of incarceration or transitioning from the military to civilian life.

Robinson says the program also brings together a lot of community partners – from local industries seeking to train workers to county agencies that assist with internships and work experience. And other agencies are also in the mix, as well as Midlands Technical College which offers training classes.

“We collaborate,” Robinson says. “Employers reach out to us and let us know they have a need for a certain skill set, and our goal is to have individuals who are trained and ready to go out there and get these jobs.”

She says WIOA also teaches workshops on soft skills such as business etiquette, resume-writing and interview skills, and provides referrals for a variety of needs like help with reading skills, free legal services, counseling for issues like substance abuse or domestic violence, and disability-specific employment services.

For those who attend job training programs with WIOA’s help, she says, not only is their tuition covered but so are other expenses like textbooks, transportation and job-required uniforms.

Robinson says what makes her proud of what she does is the stories of the people who’ve used the opportunity with WIOA to build successful lives.

One of her favorite stories belongs to a woman who struggled with legal issues caused by choices she made as a young person. Through WIOA, she was able to receive mentoring, expungement of old convictions and training to become a certified nursing assistant. Now 31, she balances two jobs in her field with her family life.

“She’s a mom, and she understands that she made mistakes that she doesn’t want her children to make,” Robinson says.

Another success story is a woman who failed – just barely – in her first time through the EMT program at Midlands Tech. WIOA helped her go through the program again – this time successfully. For its EMT students, WIOA also helps with gas money, rewards for completion, certification exam fees, and help finding employment.

Of the seven students who completed the county’s EMT program last month with WIOA’s help, Robinson says four already have pending job offers.

“The program has been here in the county for close to 20 years,” Robinson says of WIOA, “but it just has not been shared to the level that we’d like it to be shared with the public.”

At current funding levels, she says, the program can annually serve up to 80 adults and 150 youth ages 17-24, plus 80 additional individuals who’ve been displaced from their jobs.

The free training is in fields that are in demand in the area, including manufacturing, construction, transportation, health care, business administration and information technology. Career assessments are used to help job seekers identify their strengths.

“I love this job,” Robinson said. “The people who come in here are not in the best places in their lives. It’s a great feeling to be able to assist them as a team – because this is a team effort – and to see them be able to come from that day to one when they exit, get a job and become productive in the community.”

Information on the services available is made available every Friday at 10 a.m. at the WIOA offices in the JB Floyd Building in Winnsboro. Anyone is welcome to stop in. WIOA can be reached at (803) 635-2812 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Information related to WIOA and employment services in the area can also be found online at https://www.scworksmidlands.org/wioa and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fairfieldwioa/ and https://www.facebook.com/WIOAFairfieldyouth/.

Robinson’s words to those who might be interested in turning their lives around with the help and job training that are available: “You’ve got to have the motivation to get up and say it’s time for a change.”