Julia Lezcano, a self-described “missionary’s kid from South America,” arrived in the Upstate a decade ago with nothing but two suitcases. Now 43 and her family’s sole provider, she sells real estate — thanks, she says, to Greenville Tech and its fundraising arm.
“I would be on every single government assistance program there is, because I’m a single mom,” Lezcano says.
Without help from the Greenville Tech Foundation, which provides scholarships to supplement financial aid from state and local sources, Lezcano, along with thousands of others like her, couldn’t afford Quick Jobs’ training.
In October, the nonprofit foundation’s Workforce Development Salute recognizes contributors that support Greenville Tech scholarships and programs such as Quick Jobs.
This year’s honorees at the Oct. 22 event include Fluor Corp., the global engineering and construction firm; Trehel Corp., a locally owned general builder and construction-management company; and the Truist Foundation, a joint BB&T-SunTrust nonprofit that provides educational grants.
Last year, the Greenville Tech Foundation awarded nearly $360,000 in scholarships ranging from $400 to $1,000; of 400 recipients, more than 150 participated in the Quick Jobs program.
“With COVID, now paying even $500 to attend a class is a barrier,” says Judy Wilson, the foundation’s development director. “Even though Greenville Tech is a very affordable higher-education option, about 50% of our students are from low-income families.”
Quick Jobs began 19 years ago to “help these people that are in a life, occupational or sometimes economic transition, to be able to obtain skills to go to work in our community,” says Steve Hand, the director who calls himself the “father of the program.”
Since its inception, Quick Jobs has seen some 40,000 registrants, enrolling as many as 2,500 students each year, he says. Courses include training and certifications in a vast array of fields, such as health care, manufacturing, construction and more.
Wilson says employers throughout the Upstate, in turn, count on Greenville Tech and Quick Jobs to provide skilled workers.
“If we can’t keep putting out these trained employees, then it’s going to affect the entire economy,” she says.
Quick Jobs also works with United Ministries, Miracle Hill, the Greenville Literacy Association and Greenville County Schools, among others, in addition to detention centers and veterans organizations, Hand says.
“One of our big taglines is ’90 days or less,’” he says of the courses that, as the name promises, lead to quick jobs. One of those courses trains forklift operators in three days, with tuition at $289.
Kim Jamison is another Quick Jobs beneficiary. Three years ago, she found herself stuck in a dead-end beauty-industry job.
“I was, like, 43 when I started to interview for jobs, and I was interviewing with younger people who did not find my life experiences valuable getting into even entry-level positions,” she says. “I was realizing I needed credentials in order for me to go into, say, the medical field.”
Hand offered her a scholarship. Today, she works as an ophthalmic assistant for a Greenville optometrist.
Of the Workforce Development Salute, which typically draws about 300 Upstate leaders and community members, Wilson says:
“It gets teary, it gets very emotional. We have students who say, ‘I have no way out. With the help I got through this program, I have a degree and I have a job and I can support my family and have a better life.’”
The foundation of the salute
With an annual budget of more than $2 million, the Greenville Tech Foundation, which opened for business in 1973, raises about $200,000 from its sole fundraiser of the year.
The Workforce Development Salute began as the Entrepreneurs’ Forum in 1999 to recognize “corporations, individuals and foundations that have been major donors, as well as champions and partners,” says development director Judy Wilson.
The event is slated, for now, to be held Oct. 22, followed by the salute to this year’s honorees.
On courses: A glance at Quick Jobs’ offerings
Here’s a list of other courses include, among dozens:
Dental Professionals Safety Techniques
Medical Interpreter (Julia Lezcano, who is fluent in Spanish, completed this course before pivoting to real estate)
Sleep Technician (Polysomnography)
Infection Control and Blood Borne Pathogens for Tattooists
Patient Service Representative (Medical Physician Practice Clerk)