Program seeks to employ poor
By Burton Speakman
A private and public partnership is doing what it can to put poor Mahoning Valley residents to work in manufacturing and health care.
WorkAdvance receives federal funding, but it pays for the majority of its costs through gifts from private trusts and other entities to help it conduct its work, said Joe Caruso, president & CEO of Compass Family & Community Services, which operates the program. The federal funding comes through the Social Innovation Fund, which requires a significant amount of measurable success and data-backed results to guarantee a return on taxpayer investment.
“This is truly a public- private partnership,” he said. “We get feedback from the employers who hire these individuals.”
The goal is to make sure these potential employees are placed into situations with the potential for career growth, said Diane Dejulio, center for workforce development director for Compass.
“Manufacturers and health-care companies are looking for workers with good thought skills, good attendance, the ability to take criticism and a willingness to learn on the job,” she said.
Medical professions also are looking for people who understand medical terms and have basic health-care knowledge, Dejulio said. The program attempts to work the skills sought by the industries into its training courses.
One of the programs created to meet employer needs is a welding program that was created, said Jessica Borza, executive director of the manufacturers coalition. The welding training is being conducted with the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.
“They’re filling what I see as a gap in the employee-training programs,” Borza said. “They learn the basics of what is important for the industry.”
The training they receive has a contextual basis. They may learn math or reading skills as part of their training, but they are taught in a way that is relevant to manufacturing, she said.
WorkAdvance developed its program effectively by working with the existing work-placement and training programs without duplicating services, Borza said.
The program looks at what the individual needs to help them succeed, not just the technical skills they might need to get a job, said Kristina Miller, director of work force development for Humility of Mary Health Partners.
“I’ve heard examples of them providing gas cards to workers to help them pay for transportation before they get a paycheck,” she said.
This program also can help workers already working in medical fields to have the opportunity to advance in ways they might not otherwise experience, Miller said.
Les Hawkins of Campbell, one of the program participants, was able to use WorkAdvance to go from a part-time job with no benefits to a full-time position with Dairy Farmers of America near New Wilmington, Pa.
“The program was a good experience for me. It helped me create a better resume and helped me to get a clear idea of what I wanted to do with my career,” he said.
Since getting the job, Hawkins has remained in contact with the Work- Advance staff. He has also told a couple of friends about the program and has one currently enrolled in the health care portion.
To qualify for the program a person has to be unemployed or making less than $15 an hour, have a high school diploma or GED, be 18 or older, pass a drug test meet income guidelines and health-care industry standards for criminal history.
For more information about WorkAdvance, call 330-480-4384, ext. 229.