LIMA — A statewide program created a mere 16 months ago in an effort to provide greater assistance to young job-seekers who are attempting to overcome barriers to employment has had overwhelming success in Allen County.
According to a recently released report on youth employment opportunities provided under the umbrella of the state’s Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program, the Workforce Development office of the Allen County Jobs and Family Services agency has the second-best success rate in Ohio in matching young adults — many of whom come from disadvantaged homes or face other physical or environmental obstacles — with local employers.
Jessie Garrity, Workforce Development supervisor for the Allen County Department of Jobs and Family Services, said 61 of 82 youths who sought the county’s assistance in job preparedness successfully obtained and maintained employment during Program Year 2016, which ended June 30. That translates into a 74.4 percent success rate, exceed statewide only by Darke County, which found employment for 76 percent of participants — albeit a mere 10 of 13 job-seekers.
Garrity said the Workforce Development office serves young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 who have “several barriers to employment.” Local caseworkers assess the background of each individual to identify what obstacles must be addressed and overcome to make participants more attractive to future employers.
“In some cases the obstacles these young people face stem from a lack of stable housing, lack of transportation and day care options or a shortage of overall skills,” Garrity said.
The majority of individuals who seek assistance from the Workforce Development office are 18 to 24 years of age.
“These youths are a little more job ready (than younger program participants), and we try to get them into a career pathway so they can find self-sufficient employment,” Garrity said.
The program is federally funded through money allocated by the state from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity program as well as the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
A NEW APPROACH
Job Center Administrator Joe Patton said the new approach to job training for young residents in Allen County varies greatly from the focus of previous job placement programs.
“It used to be, ‘Get ‘em a job … any job,’” Patton said. “But the focus now is to get these young people on a career pathway; to get them into entry-level jobs and on their way to a lifetime career.”
No one is turned away by Jobs and Family Services officials. Garrity said a staff that includes herself, a coordinator, four case workers and seven job coaches are on hand to assist the young job-seekers with preparing resumes, polishing interview skills and searching for employment.
“I’m extremely proud of my youth staff and the comprehensive approached they take to working these young people through their barriers,” she said.
Even after participants have secured employment, Workforce Development provides follow-up services as needed for up to a year.
A SUCCESS STORY
Amondre Knuckles was a referral to the job placement program from the guidance counselor at Perry High School and, following his graduation as the class salutatorian, is currently serving an eight-week paid internship as a corrections officer with the Allen County Sheriff’s office.
Knuckles said he became aware of the assistance that was available from the Job and Family Services agency after Patton came to his school and talked to students. Knuckles talked to his guidance counselor about possible internships in his field of interest — law enforcement — and was hooked up with a case worker in the job placement program.
“I told her I was interested in law enforcement, and when a position opened up at the sheriff’s office we put in an application,” Knuckles said. “I had my first interview in August and started my internship on Oct. 16.”
Despite working 40 hours a week for the sheriff’s department, Knuckles also attends Rhodes State College, majoring in law enforcement.
“It’s a hectic schedule,” said Knuckles, who credited Job and Family Services personnel with helping advance his career path.
“I really appreciate the program,” he said. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”
Knuckles expected to be hired as a full-time employee of the sheriff’s office when his internship ends Dec. 10.