Amy Haimerl| Crain’s Talent Report
Even as Congress breaks for a 10-day recess without having extended federal unemployment benefits, local and national organizations are coming together to try to help those who have been without work for six months or more.
Detroit Employment Solutions Corp. announced this morning the first local class of Platform to Employment, a program designed by Bridgeport, Conn.-based The WorkPlace, to help people move out of joblessness. The WorkPlace is one of five organizations that oversee workforce development programs for the state of Connecticut.
Detroit, which had an unemployment rate of 15.1 percent in November, is the eighth city to host the program. Others include Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver and San Francisco.
“About a third of our residents have been unemployed for at least a year,” said Pamela Moore, president and CEO of DESC. “It took an average of 39 weeks for a Detroiter to find work in 2013. … So when The WorkPlace approached us and asked if they could bring this, we said yes.”
More than 100 local residents applied to participate, 20 of whom were selected. They will go through five weeks of training, which includes everything from resume-writing to confidence building.
“When you’ve been unemployed a year or longer, it’s not a training issue,” said Joseph Carbone, president and CEO of The WorkPlace. “The first step is to understand what long-term unemployment does to the individual. Long-term unemployment depletes one’s sense of self confidence. There are emotional issues, such as depression, that impact the person’s ability to connect to employment.”
At the end of the five-week training, Platform to Employment will connect participants with jobs at local companies with openings matching their skills. For eight weeks, the program will pay their salaries while employers evaluate their performances. Companies are under no obligation to hire the candidates full time at the end of the trial period.
“There is no risk,” said Tom Long, vice president of communications at The WorkPlace. “There is no extensive reporting or contracts. It’s a risk-free opportunity to try out one of our participants who we feel is a good fit.”
In Connecticut, where eight classes have been through the program, more than 80 percent have been hired, according to Platform to Employment.
Each class costs an average of $100,000 to administer, and the funding comes from the AARP Foundation, Citi Community Development and the Walmart Foundation.
“Many of these folks come to a cliff at the end of their unemployment benefits, and it’s an extreme cliff for people who have worked for most of their lives,” said Robert Annibale, Citi’s global director of community development and microfinance. “They exhaust their savings, their retirement funds, they still have kids in school. They last as long as they can, but then they end up in part-time jobs, low-paying jobs just to get anything. … There is need and opportunity to put them back to work, and we support that.”
There are currently no plans for a second class in the Detroit area, but Long and Moore see it as an opportunity to test out some methods and then incorporate them into existing programs.
Moore is particularly interested in the behavioral aspects of the program and how they could be incorporated into the many training programs DESC has for Detroit’s unemployed.
“This is the work that we do every day,” she said. “We have a number of readiness programs. This is just another model that has gotten some really good results across the country. If we see great success with this, we have the flexibility to incorporate some of the components into our programs.”
To find out more about Platform to Employment, visit the program website.
To find out more about the programs offered by DESC, visit the website.