Megiddo Dream Station and Second Chance Jobs have teamed up to give workers in Aiken a brighter future.

On Wednesday night, a graduation ceremony was held for a group that completed a 16-week job training program held by the two organizations. 

Megiddo Dream Station, which was founded in 2013, focuses on teaching individuals struggling with chronic unemployment soft skills for professionalism.

"We developed a program where we do an eight week job training program where we work with a person on their soft skills, project management, communication, how to interview," said Kay Benitez, executive director of Meggido. "We have a very intensive and extensive program with a very strict attendance policy."

Second Chance Jobs is a nonprofit that works on getting employees certified for trade jobs with pre-apprenticeships, providing an alternate route to success outside higher education. They started forming employer partnerships in the CSRA last year. 

Recently they decided to combine the two programs in a joint partnership.

"We call it our 'secret sauce,'" said Second Chance Jobs Executive Director Debbie Reese. 

The Megiddo program was condensed into three weeks for the joint partnership. Participants in the Second Chance Jobs program also received pre-apprenticeship training and paid on-the-job training so they can build their resumes.

The program provides an opportunity for nonviolent ex-offenders to find jobs to provide for themselves and their families. Colin Slaven, with Second Chance Jobs, said the program has also been popular among high school students who would prefer going straight into a career rather than college, displaced workers and veterans.

"We’re creating the next generation of skilled workers in the building, construction and manufacturing trades now," Slaven said. "We have Department of Labor approved programs that can be used nationally."

The graduates of Wednesday's ceremony at Midland Valley Community Church of the Nazarene who partook in the Second Chance Jobs pre-apprenticeship program learned the foundational skills needed to begin careers in their trade.

Over the next few years, they can continue to complete certification programs in trade jobs, which will enable them to earn higher salaries.

Reese said they were "extremely proud" of the graduates who completed the program.

"When we look and we think about all the life journey and circumstances that brought our participants to meet us … some struggled with addiction, some with extreme poverty, trauma, incarceration," Reese said. "There were so many things that were part of their life story before they got to this point, and they decided to make a change. They really had to put that effort in."

Reese said some of the participants went through divorce while in the program, became parents or lost loved ones.

"Through all that, they persevered," Reese said.

Bridgestone was named Megiddo's VIP employer partner during the graduation ceremony.

For more information about Second Chance Jobs, visit secondchancejobs.org.

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.