University of Missouri Extension
Story source: Mark Eye, 573-882-2031
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Terrone Jones, a middle-aged father of four from St. Louis, has always been a go-getter. From the time he was a teenager, Jones eagerly pursued odd jobs around the neighborhood.
He’s carried that scrappy can-do attitude throughout his adult life. But in the last few years, job opportunities dried up. Jones found himself working sporadically and having to depend on food stamps to make ends meet. But Jones wanted to work full time and make his own way.
“I knew I had it in me, I just needed somebody to believe in me,” he says.
He found that somebody in the form of Mark Eye, a job training counselor with the Missouri Employment Training Program, a recently adopted effort of University of Missouri Extension’s Business Development Program (BDP).
Eye helped Jones explore potential job training programs around the state.
“The best fit for him was a truck driver training program in Springfield,” says Eye. “METP supported his transition to that school and paid for his tuition.”
After recently completing the intense three-week training program, Jones is a full-time over-the-road trucker with a healthy income that makes him self-sufficient.
Eye says the biggest aspect of his job is being a booster for program participants like Jones: “We’re a positive force in their lives, to make change, providing encouragement, building their confidence and ultimately providing hope.”
Mary Paulsell directs the METP effort. A longtime manager with MU Extension’s BDP, Paulsell organized the job-training program after the BDP received a grant from the Missouri Department of Social Services about 18 months ago.
METP focuses on participants in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program who are ready to make a change in their employment path, according to Paulsell.
“Our ultimate goal is to help these people move off food stamps, move toward self-sufficiency, and be able to take care of themselves and their families with no assistance from the government,” she says.
Paulsell designed METP as a hub with numerous spokes reaching many points around the state. The program partners with most of Missouri’s community colleges and several commercial training programs. This educational network provides the foundation for participants to get the training they need to take the next big step toward full-time employment.
METP’s cadre of counselors—in Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield—works in depth with program applicants. Counselors focus on individuals willing to make a firm commitment to the rigors of job training. METP then provides the means the applicants need to pursue their training. Those resources can range from help with tuition to training apparel and bus passes.
“It’s hard to consider going to training or education if you can’t get out of your neighborhood,” Paulsell explains. “It’s not just a gift to go to school at no cost to them. It’s an investment in them to turn their lives around.”
Newly minted trucker Jones has one piece of advice for anyone who is in the situation he found himself before discovering METP: “I did it, and so can you!”
Photo available for this release:
Cutline: Terrone Jones, right, with the guidance of METP job counselor Mark Eye, got the training he needed to land a well-paying position as an over-the-road trucker.
Credit: MU Extension