New London job training academy seeks funding help
New London — The Opportunities Industrialization Center of New London County, a nonprofit employment and training agency, has thrived for nearly 50 years with state and local support for its programs.
A recent drop in funding, however, has Executive Director Nekeisha Grant making a public appeal to help with what she calls a “financial emergency.”
The agency is looking to close a 12 percent budget gap, about 600,000, down from a $1.1 million budget in 2003.
Offerings include a certified nursing assistant certificate program, a learning academy aimed at teaching basic employment skills and a popular culinary arts and hospitality program. The agency has a community reintegration program for students with past legal troubles, an adult academic refresher course and plans to start a business and office computer skills course in January.
Grant said use of a computer still scares some without experience, especially adults who have been away from the workforce or changing professions.
Grant said more than 120 people took advantage of OIC programs last year.
The culinary program proved to be popular through the years with more demand than available space. Many who have passed the course are now employed at area casinos. When the building housing the OIC’s kitchen in Hodges Square went up for sale 2016, OIC started a capital campaign to fund the construction of its kitchen at its 106 Truman St. headquarters.
The campaign was successful, said Board Chairman John Webster, but the kitchen at headquarters is not yet in use. Work on the ventilation system is set to begin soon and the used equipment purchased at discount rate from the former Fitch Middle School awaits installation.
The loss of the kitchen and the skills portion of the culinary class led to a sizable hit to the budget, Grant said. She expects to recoup some of that funding when the new expanded kitchen opens.
Funding for OIC comes from federal Department of Labor, state Department of Social Services, the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Board, United Way, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut and private grants and donations.
Grant said OIC is not the only nonprofit facing a shrinking budgets these days.
But the budget woes comes at a time when OIC is poised for expansion based on the need for its programs and number of local agencies offering partnerships, Webster said.
“There is a pressing need right now for these programs,” Webster said. ”There are a lot of opportunities out there to garner. The potential is there. The demand is there. The resources are not. It’s very frustrating.”
Grant and Webster offered a tour of the OIC building last week to show where the agency has room to expand classroom space and labs but is currently without the funds to do so. They are also in the market for tutors.
OIC supplements its budget by renting space to organizations that include the NAACP, Job Corps, a therapist’s office and food bank.
For more information or to donate contact the OIC at 860-447-1731 or visit www.oicnlc.org.