CHICAGO (CBS) — One new program that’s helping put people back to work in Chicago focuses on the middle class – those people who were plugging along in careers, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.

Originators of the program wanted to find a way to help the more than 30,000 people in the city who simply weren’t eligible for any public job-training program. The reason: They made too much money.

Friday, CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez talked to one of the first graduates of Chicago Career Tech.

Linda Stanford never dreamed she’d be working in information technology.  But she’s thrilled with her new job in IT Support at Accretive Health Services, after being laid off from a call center in 2009.

“After 30 years of being employed, it was devastating,” Stanford said.

After taking several lower-paying jobs, she heard about Chicago Career Tech.

“This is a program for folks who made between $25,000 and $75,000 a year,” Executive Director Marie Trzupek Lynch said. “Our average age is 44. They had worked for many, many years at the same company.”

The six-month program focuses on technology-based careers. Students receive classroom training and hands-on learning at a corporation or a not-for-profit for free. In fact, the program offers an average weekly stipend of $300, plus you can continue to receive unemployment.

“The program they put together was a phenomenal program,” Stanford said.

Stanford received training at Accretive, and after graduating from the program was offered a full-time job. She’s one of the first 150 graduates.  But a whole new class is hoping for similar results.

Stanford says it was a scary transition, but she offers this advice: “When you enter the program, give it your all — because there is something else at the other side of the tunnel.”

Chicago Career Tech will start taking applications Monday for its next class of 400.

To be eligible: You have to be from Chicago; have a high school certificate; you have to have made between $25,000 and $75,000 a year at your last job, and you must have received unemployment. Deadline to apply is March 4.

Click here for more information.

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