By Paula Penebaker, Rotarian and Executive Director of the YWCA
Just a few months ago, RCM announced the creation of the new Inclusion, Racial Equity and Jobs Committee, formed by Rotarians with a common interest in leveraging Rotary resources and influence to better connect residents to meaningful employment. The first initiative of this committee was to recommend RCM’s participation a project developed by the YWCA to assist community members with criminal histories in finding stable jobs.
|Maurice, a participant of the YWCA program hired by Quad Graphics.|
The YWCA was among seven agencies in the country to receive a grant from the US Department of Labor to operate a transitional jobs (TJ) demonstration project, the Supporting Families through Work (SFTW): Enhanced Transitional Jobs Project in 2011. A four-year grant, the project ends on June 30, 2015.
The purpose of a TJ is to give a person with a spotty work record and other barriers to employment, i.e. contact with the criminal justice system, an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to meet an employer’s expectations of good performance. For the SFTW project, the YWCA recruited 1000 individuals: 500 for the program group and 500 for a control group. The program group members were non-custodial parents who were offered the enhancement of establishing child support agreements or addressing arrearages. They were paid an hourly wage—the program paid wages--up to $10 per hour with a portion being directed to Child Support for up to four months, the length of the TJ placement.
One of the companies where the YWCA placed TJs was Quad Graphics in Sussex. Because their contact at Quad was so pleased with the quality of workers the YWCA provided during the project, he offered a matching grant of $20,000 to recruit additional TJs specifically for Quad. Quad/Graphics agreed to provide TJ placements for up to 10 or our participants. They have agreed that those who successfully complete their subsidized work period will be offered a full time position with benefits. The RCM Community Trust contributed $15,000 toward making the match.
Upon receipt of match funding, the YWCA began recruiting candidates for the Quad positions. Fifty men and women showed up for the recruitment event. Of those 50, 33 were interviewed for the positions; 18 were selected for the pre-employment drug test; 14 passed the test; 13 started work on March 9. Of the 13 who started work, two are women. These are excellent results.
We will conduct (at minimum) weekly check-ins with the workers and Quad management to assess the TJs’ performance and provide the committee with a full report on project outcomes, including the number of participants who receive permanent full-time employment. In addition, we will evaluate the factors that kept other participants from obtaining a full-time position. We will also track the referrals made for each participant that are designed to help them remain employed.
The YWCA hopes to develop and grow its own TJ employment program, one that is separate from programs that are subsidized by federal funds. The agency has strong staff that can identify and work with talented men and women who have the ability to be successful. They need only the support of staff who understand the barriers they face and can help them navigate the employment landscape to experience success.