Fred had a liberal arts degree from Kent State University and struggled to find employment. Both he and his wife were working part-time jobs and struggling financially. They were the definition of the working poor. They were first referred to the Community Action Council of Portage County (CAC) by a board member who told them about a program that utilized Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to assist homeowners with repairs to their heating systems. The couple, who had two small children, had recently purchased a home in Kent through a first-time home buyers program and the furnace wasn’t functioning properly.

CAC sent the agency’s inspector who determined that the furnace was unsafe. A new high efficiency furnace was installed in their home. The couple indicated through follow-up surveys that they were extremely happy with the reduction in the heating costs. Fred also enrolled in various utility assistance programs offered by CAC, including both the regular and winter crisis Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) after becoming unemployed.

During one of his visits to the CAC, Fred saw a flyer for the agency’s Community Technology Learning Center (CTLC). The CTLC is a proprietary school approved through the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools that was developed by the Community Action Council of Portage County in 2005 in response to the growing need to provide Portage County residents with computer skills and technology training. Part economic development and part education, the goal of the CTLC is to provide students and the community with the skills necessary to compete in a 21st century labor market. Information technology continues to be one of the fastest growing occupations in Ohio, and the CAC offers a diversity of classes, ranging from beginning computer literacy to advanced networking and network administration. As a Microsoft Partner, students have access to low-cost training and globally recognized certifications enabling them to either upgrade their current skills or learn new skills for the future. With technology changing virtually every day, the CAC hopes to attract students and professionals who not only are interested in earning a living wage, but who wish to be on the cutting edge of technology.

In early 2011, Fred contacted the Community Technology Learning Center of Portage County to obtain information on the various technology classes offered by the agency. After discussing the options with CAC’s executive director and the CTLC operations manager, Fred expressed a sincere interest in computer technology, and was actually quite computer literate based on initial assessments completed at the time. He stated however, that although he was interested in attending advanced classes, he could not afford the costs, and could not start classes for at least six months due to the age of his children.

During the summer, Fred was contacted and informed that CAC had received a small grant through the local city for residents to obtain technology training leading to one or more certifications. Fred was approved for participation, and began classes almost immediately with his enrollment in the CompTIA’s A+ program. Later that year, he passed all pre-certification requirements and his A+ certification test.

Over the next year, Fred continued in classes, completing and receiving global certifications in CompTIA Network +, CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA Server + and Enterprise Administrator classes through the CTLC. In May 2012, he was hired part-time by a local public library system as a technology specialist, assisting the library system with computer repairs and related duties. He continued working for the library system for roughly ten months.

During his initial employment, Fred continued on both the HEAP and PIPP programs, but later in the year Fred and his family removed themselves from the PIPP program, and discontinued any type of public assistance.

In May 2013, Fred sent a letter to the Community Action Council’s executive director and staff informing them that he had been promoted to assistant head of Library Services and was responsible for all technology services, networking, and related functions in the entire library system. He indicated that this position paid $30 per hour, was full-time and with full benefits, including a pension plan. He has continued communicating with the staff at CTLC, and has referred several potential students to the school.

Fred represents a near ideal outcome for the Community Action Council of Portage County. As a relatively young family, he and his wife struggled with making ends meet, and both worked hard to improve themselves and make a better home for their children. He utilized the services that CAC could offer—through HEAP, weatherization, CSBG and others—and ultimately enrolled at CTLC so that he could gain the skills necessary to obtain employment. Fred persevered, took advantage of the opportunities that were made available to him and has succeeded in moving to self-sufficiency.

For more information about Community Action programs in your area, visit www.oacaa.org. Note, not all Community Action Agencies offer these programs.

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