Earlier this week, we reported on how local agencies are rising to the challenge of helping the unemployed, despite their limited resources. Today, in our series, "What's Working," Mike Frazier visits a non-profit Greene County organization that has put 75% of its clients back to work.
When Craig Richards lost his job, he thought he'd be able to quickly find work again. He has a bachelor's degree and 12 years of experience at an automotive software company. But when he started his job search, he was surprised.
"In that search, I found out that I wasn't finding the available employment that I was looking for in terms of customer service or project management," says Richards.
"How does your resume look?"
It's been a year now, and he's had nothing but dead-end interviews. That's what brings him to GreeneWorks today. It bills itself as a one-stop center. Think of it like a library for the unemployed. There are job listings, financial aid applications, and counselors for one-on-one advice.
"How does your resume look? How are your skill sets for the kind of jobs that are out there?" asks GreeneWork's Director Amy McKinney.
McKinney describes what some people need to adapt to today's environment: "You might need a skill upgrade; we can help with that. You might need a whole new direction; we have career-testing. Really, anything to get you back to work, we are going to try and support you with that."
But GreeneWorks has its own challenges. Cuts in Federal and State funding have forced the agency to do more with less. Beth Rubin is the Greene County Department of Job and Family Service's Director, the organization that oversees GreeneWorks.
"We have 22% fewer staff providing services to many more people in need. We are doing our very best to do what we can and I think we are successful in doing that. That doesn't mean we couldn't do so much more if we had more staff and more resources to be able to help people," reports Beth.
"I do have that experience and I think it is transferable"
Despite the staffing at GreeneWorks, Craig Richards has been able to get the training he needs. He wants to be a PMP, or a project management professional. He got a grant, and is in the process of getting certified. It's satisfying for him because he gets to use his experience from his old job.
"Having worked on projects before, I do have that experience and I think it is transferable. And now that I have attended school, I do have the background information about how projects are run," says Richards.
Chrissy Sharpe also came to GreeneWorks for help. She worked in retail before leaving the workforce to start a family.
"Well, I was a stay at home mom for six years, so I hadn't worked since 2001," says Sharpe.
Now, she's divorced and needs to find a job. Not wanting to return to retail, she went through training to do clerical work at a medical office. She hasn't found work yet, but at least her experience at GreeneWorks gives her more confidence in herself.
"I was at a point in my life where I just didn't know what to do and they told me, You're going to be okay. You're going to get yourself back on your feet.' So I went back to school and it did, it made me feel like I was okay and that I could do this on my own," Sharpe continues.
"I'm ready to go"
"They greeted you with a smile and basically took my problem as their own," says Johnny Bonner.
Bonner came to GreeneWorks just over two months ago, and already feels he has a new beginning.
"It really really encouraged me and I actually felt, for the first time out of a year, that - I felt positive about things," continues Bonner.
He used to work in construction. GreeneWorks helped him train to become a truck driver. That's something he always wanted to pursue, and now he feels he has the chance.
" And now that I've pursued it, captured it, strangled it (Laughs) I'm just excited - I'm ready to go."
Johnny expects to finish his training next week. He's been told that he will qualify for at least three jobs when he's done.