UpRise Nashville Trains the Underemployed for Careers

By Clare Bratten

NASHVILLE, TN — Adults ages 19 to 50 who are unemployed or underemployed can get mentoring, training and tuition for careers as a part of a program called UpRise The program is part of a community outreach for West End Community Church and even provides a bi-weekly stipend of up to $300 a month if participants meet attendance and engagement goals. Participants need to have a high school diploma or equivalent (GED or HISET), be eligible to work in the US, have stable housing (including transitional housing) and submit to a drug screening. 

UpRise calls its participants “Leaders” after they are accepted into the program. 

“Nashville has experienced the lowest unemployment growth. However, that economic growth has not been shared by all,” said Abdelghani Barre, Director of Strategic Planning and Research with Metropolitan Social Services, pointing to the fact that Nashville’s boom town growth has not benefitted all communities. The program is designed to address the opportunity gap for folks who have not achieved a career path. The program is run out of the West Nashville Community church and Carole Peterson is the UpRise Nashville Executive Director. 

“We knew that we could help people pay rent one month; we could do canned food drive and those things are important–but they are helping people in poverty – they are not helping people to get out of poverty. So UpRise Nashville exists to help people get the education and training they need – not just to get a job – but to get on a career path with upward mobility,” said Peterson.

People who apply and who are accepted into the UpRise program attend a six-week training camp. The training camp prepares them for jobs with a prospect of providing a living wage. Program graduates can be certified for jobs such as medical assistants, nursing assistant, medical office specialist, medical billing and coding specialist, information technology certification, or certifications in electronic health records, and office administration. In addition, participants in the program can be certified for apprenticeships in construction for HVAC or electrical or qualify for a commercial driver’s license. 

“Our first class started right here in the church in October 2017 with something we called Training Boot Camp. It’s a class that focuses mostly on skills that get you hired. Things like writing a resume or how to interview well. Then also the things that get you fired—things like conflict resolution and time management.  Then our students started going to school.  And they started going to school all over Nashville to obtain short term certification in skills where there are areas of vocational need.”

“When they graduated with those certifications, we help them get jobs. Today they are working in places like Vanderbilt, St. Thomas, PhyMed, Asurion, and Google,” said Peterson. 

According to Peterson, when participants first started, 70 percent of people were on food stamps. After completing the program, only 9 percent were. She cited one participant who came from a women’s shelter and ended up with a job at Google where she could afford a 3-bedroom home for herself and her two children. 

People who are interested in qualifying for the program can contact UpRise offices at 615-301-8440 or https://uprisenashville.org/ and sign up for an information session. Following the information session, a potential candidate can schedule an interview which qualifies them for the program. The interview takes about an hour and includes a drug test.

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