Agency helps area residents better employment status
Posted: November 16, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — A regional agency working to help unemployed and underemployed persons in the area find full-time work brought its message to the United Way of the Northern Shenandoah Valley and Our Health meeting Thursday.
Alex Berry, a business service representative with the Harrisonburg-based Shenandoah Valley Workforce Investment Board Inc., spoke to representatives of several health care providers and services about an on-the-job training program the group is funding through a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The four-year program is in its second year. Grant funds are used to reimburse from 50 percent to 90 percent of training costs for participants who receive an offer for continuous, full-time work in either the health care or manufacturing industries, Berry said.
Prospective employees are screened for eligibility — they must have at least a high school diploma or GED, be unemployed, underemployed, working part-time or have a temporary job and be actively seeking full-time employment — and must undergo career scope testing to find an employer that would be a good match for their skills.
The prospective employee, if eligible, is then placed in an applicant pool, Berry said.
“The bottom line on the program is that we search out underemployed and unemployed participants and we then go and talk with employers and help them hire these unemployed and underemployed [workers],” he said after the presentation.
“But we also give [employers] the full choice and responsibility of hiring and training these people and the ability to choose their hires and then come talk to us about how we can get them employed.”
An example of an underemployed worker, Berry said, would be someone with a master’s degree working for minimum wage at a fast food restaurant.
The Department of Labor specified that grant funds in this area can only be used to help potential employees train in the health care and manufacturing industries because of those fields’ high growth rate in the Shenandoah Valley.
The board has written contracts and placed about 35 employees at several area businesses, including Trex, Kraft Foods and Dupont. The amount of grant funding the 35 contacts represent is between $100,000 and $200,000, according to Berry.
“There’s a pretty high demand,” Berry said. “I think the concern these days is the fiscal cliff and concern over Obamacare, and I think this program can really put an employer over the top in terms of deciding to hire.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty, so we hopefully try and get rid of some of the uncertainty of the hiring process.”
Joe Shtulman, president of the United Way of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, said after the presentation that he thinks the on-the-job training program is a “fantastic opportunity” for local businesses and local residents who are looking to improve their career situation.
Linda Blythe, director of human resources for the Grafton Integrated Health Network, said she is interested the board’s training program because Grafton is always looking for ways to expand its applicant pool of qualified employees to work in behavioral health care.
Additional information on the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Investment Board Inc.’s Valley On-The-Job Training program is available by calling 540-442-7134 or going to valleyojt.com.
— Contact Matt Armstrong firstname.lastname@example.org