Ex-Offender that was given a second chance

Keith spent 17 years in prison, and once he was released he struggled to find meaningful employment. He was repeatedly turned away from the jobs for which he applied, losing hope and becoming depressed. While completing an application with an employer, it asked him to state his experience and he wrote, “I just need someone to give me a chance.”

During one September day, Keith walked into an SC Works Center in the Lowcountry, not knowing what to expect. He began working with Michelle Adams, a workforce consultant. It was a struggle to find Keith a job, at first. Michelle had followed up with the employer that Keith had initially filled out an application with, and the employer responded, “We don’t want people like that working here.”

After several failed attempts, Michelle then called a business in Bluffton, and when she told the employer about Keith and his story, the general manager of the company told her to send him over.

They offered Keith a job because of the value they saw he would bring to the company.  Recently the employer sent an update to Michelle and said Keith is a hard worker and is doing fantastic in his new position.

After speaking with Keith, Michelle said that he is extremely happy.

Greenville Back to Work Program Graduates Seven

Mary “Ginny” Knight recalls what Back to Work coordinator Frank Floyd said to her and the other in the class on their first day: “The world has written you off.”

“The world has written us off,” she said during the Greenville Back to Work program’s first graduation ceremony held Friday, June 23. “But we will not be dismissed. We will fight for ourselves and we will keep fighting for ourselves because now we have workforce skills.”

Knight was one of seven women who completed the five-week, boot-camp style training. The Back to Work program, which is a partnership between the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, the Phoenix Center and Long Branch Baptist Church, helps the homeless and marginalized transition back into the workforce. The program teaches such skills as resume writing, interviewing, interpersonal skills and each participates takes the WorkKeys assessment test.

At the end of the program a job fair was held with the Greenville County School District, MS Companies, K&W Cafeteria, House of Raeford and Omni Staffing participating.

Ashley Carson said she entered the program because of her daughter.

“If I wouldn’t have had her, I would probably still be on the streets,” she said. “But now I know after taking WorkKeys, that 69 percent of the companies out there may be willing to hire me.”

All the women who participated in this program were residents of Serenity Place, Phoenix Center’s residential facility for women with additions and their children. At Serenity Place they are also getting the help they need to recover from substance abuse.

Celisa Patterson, the Phoenix Center’s LOTUS coordinator, knows what these women have been going through. She had a crack cocaine addiction but has been clean for the last eight years.

“People do make it out. They do succeed. They do change,” she told the women during the graduation.

Going through this program shows that they “can achieve anything. Do not let anything or anyone stop you. … I’m so proud and excited for your future,” she said.

To become involved with this program or to participate in the job fairs, contact Grey Parks at bparks@dew.sc.gov.

Goodwill helps build the community

When someone walks into a Goodwill store they are greeted with aisles of potential new treasures. What they probably don’t realize is the impact they are making by simply deciding to shop there. Money spent at Goodwill goes towards providing opportunities for jobseekers with job training programs, helping people prepare for careers and job placements that fit their skillsets.

Crystal Hardesty, Goodwill Upstate/Midlands Director of Marketing/PR says, “Goodwill is community based in that we are solely supported by the community. We assist 16 counties in South Carolina to help individuals become independent citizens.” Goodwill has been able to position themselves in a way to be easily accessed by individuals that need their services. A person can learn about the services Goodwill offers while running a daily shopping errand to pick up much needed items. Some of these services might be surprising, but a Goodwill representative is happy to assist them or figure out a more convenient time to return. While many of the services offered by Goodwill are available through other organizations, the convenience of making them available in high traffic areas is a huge benefit to users.  “One of the things that we have found to work really well is our Work Readiness Class,” Crystal continues, “If there are people that are coming into a training program they complete the class during their first week. If they are coming through from Job Connections the class is done on a less formal basis, but we are working with them on their soft skills.”

As a Community Based Organization (CBO), Goodwill not only benefits the jobseeker, but the community as a whole. Employers are engaged by the employment specialists on staff who make businesses aware of the services available. Because Goodwill is integrated within small communities the employment specialists are able to attend local meetings and find out the needs of the community.

With an extensive list of services offered, Goodwill seeks collaboration with other organizations and businesses to ensure that the community needs are met. While Goodwill is a part of several programs, there is one in particular that sticks out to Crystal; the Youth Build Greenville Grant provided by the U.S. Department of Labor. Through the grant youth are able to obtain their GED, learn construction skills and life skills. Crystal said, “This was such a momentous collaboration because there were 15 to 20 organizations that are a part of this grant from the beginning to help youth in our community succeed.” In the initial stages of the grant Greenville Revitalization Corporation helped identify a location for the program.  With a dedicated “home” the Home Builders Institute provided a trainer to teach the participants construction skills. Habitat of Humanity of Greenville County then helps them take these skills out of the classroom and apply them to the community by inviting them to participate in building houses for the community. They have been able to commit to the construction of three houses through the first iteration of the grant.  Another key partner in this grant has been Life Long Learning who has provided the kids with the tools to attain their GED’s and then presents the GEDs to them at a graduation ceremony. Throughout the grant process Goodwill has acted as the operator of the grant. Of course these are only a few of the partners that have been a part of this, all with different missions, but they have all come together to help the community.

There is no I in Team

Robert Ray - David BaileyRobert Ray had to move to South Carolina from Massachusetts in 2014 due to family issues. He had an extensive background in management, but he had a difficult time finding a job in his career field.

He eventually learned about his local SC Works center in Georgetown and the resources available to him. He went to the center to explore local employment opportunities, but after speaking to a workforce consultant and sharing his background in management, he learned about an available part-time position at the center as a greeter. With his vast amount of skills he was able to secure the job and he saw it as a rewarding experience because at the end of every interaction he knew he made a difference in someone’s life that day. After some time he used his skillsets, old and new, for the next step in his life.

Robert was excelling at his part-time position as a reliable and productive worker, and his dedication to the position did not go unnoticed. His management team at the SC Works office encouraged him to apply for a full-time position at the Conway SC Works center as the Re-Employment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA) Program Assistant. After his initial interview, he was able to obtain the position, and started shortly thereafter. As the RESEA program assistant he works one-on-one with individuals to create a re-employment plan.

Robert now is in a position that he loves, and says, “I am profoundly appreciative for the DEW work environment and the willingness of my colleagues to assist me in any way possible.  They exemplify the adage that there ‘is no I in team’.”

Getting back on her own two feet

When Sydney Griffith graduated with a four-year degree from a private women’s college she hit the job market with applications and interviews, ready for her high-paying $100,000/year job she assumed she could get. It was a shock to find that reality was a bit different. Sydney reset her mindset and started a career in banking as a secretary. This job gave her endless opportunities for training to increase her skillsets, which made her the ideal candidate for promotions and ultimately worked her way up to Assistant Vice President. Life was good. She had a great salary, was married to a Senior Tax Accountant, had a country club membership and owned horses, a childhood dream

Her life took her through different job opportunities and locations until she ended up in Myrtle Beach, S.C. where she and her husband could live at the beach with their horses. Sydney thought it was the ideal life; however, right before starting her new job, Sydney’s neighbor came running over to tell her that her husband had been in a car accident. While he was alright, their only means of transportation had been wrecked and determined by the insurance company to be a total loss. When the check came in, her husband took the money and left her without a job, transportation and now a husband, she had been left with only her horses. While her previous experience had taught her the importance of savings she was chipping away at it while she struggled with seasonal employment, which is the norm for the area. She didn’t think things could get much worse until her horses were stolen, and she used the rest of her saving trying to find them, but never did.

It was just one struggle too many. Now without a job, Sydney became homeless and found herself as a chronic alcoholic and living in the woods. She kept telling herself that her situation was temporary, but a month eventually turned into four.

When she heard about New Directions, a work/stay program, and the resources that they had to offer, she decided to take the plunge and go to the homeless shelter. It turned out to be welcoming, giving her something she hadn’t had in a long time – hope.

It was a new beginning that Sydney was ready to embrace, and as part of the agreement to stay at the shelter, she had to look for work. She was willing and ready, but the odds were against her: homeless, female, older and with some employment barriers.

New Directions referred Sydney to SC Works to help with her job search. She got help with her resume, was taught how to use the SC Works Online System and, most importantly, they were always there to listen and offer career advice on a potential employment situation.

While job hunting she received a call from the New Directions Assistant Director, asking that she move from the women’s facility to their family shelter where they also wanted her to help out. At the time, she didn’t know it, but she was being tested. Shortly after she began helping at New Directions Family Shelter, the Assistant Director asked her to interview, and she was so excited she didn’t even ask what she was interviewing for. She walked into the interview in Feb. 2016 homeless and jobless, and walked out employed with housing!

Sydney was hired as the night shelter manager for New Directions Family Shelter. Now, she in turn, she is able to offer the same hope and encouragement to the homeless Family Shelter clients that was offered to her.

Be aware: Work search requirements have changed

The S.C. Legislature recently changed the work search requirements for anyone receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

If you are receiving benefits, you must now, as of the week beginning May 28, 2017, complete two work searches per week through SC Works Online Services (SCWOS) at jobs.scworks.org. If you fail to comply you could be ineligible for benefits and may not be paid.

Searching on other job sites will not count toward fulfilling you work search requirement.

Job searches cannot be verified and tracked unless you have conducted the searches through your registered username and password. Unless the two job searches are linked to your registered account, you may not receive benefits for that week.

Job searches on SCWOS can be customized and it’s easy and convenient to use. Go to jobs.scworks.org and register today. If you have registered in the past, but do not remember your information, please do not create a new account.

You may be eligible to receive a waiver from the requirement to perform at least two weekly job searches through SCWOS for good cause. Please contact us at 1-866-831-1724 if there are verifiable circumstances that would prevent you from being able to perform job searches on SCWOS.

Don’t jeopardize your benefits, go to jobs.scworks.org today!

DEW launches Back to Work program in Greenville

The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) has expanded its Back to Work program into Greenville.

back to workCurrently, eight people are in the new program. DEW has partnered with Serenity Place, a residential treatment facility for pregnant women, young mothers and their preschool age children.

Back to Work is a five-week, bootcamp-style program intended to help individuals develop skills in interviewing, resume writing, conflict resolution and more. Each person is assigned a job coach who mentors them with the goal of obtaining employment and self-sufficiency. At the end of the program, a job fair is held with employers actively seeking to fill openings.

DEW piloted this program in Columbia by partnering with Transitions, a Columbia-area homeless facility that helps people transition into permanent housing, to assist people who are homeless transition back into the workforce. Since it was launched a year ago, 75 people have graduated from the program and 52, or nearly 70 percent, are employed.

The Greenville Bank to Work program’s graduation is set for June 23.

Going the extra smile

ats1Ashton Taylor Sullivan had limited employability skills and was only able to find work waitressing part-time, barely making ends meet. She enrolled as a participant with the ResCare Workforce Services WIOA Out of School Youth Program once she graduated high school.

Through the help of her talent engagement specialist and talent development facilitator with the program, Ashton decided that she wanted to become a Dental Assistant and eventually work in an orthodontics office.

To improve her employability skills, Ashton attended work-readiness sessions to better prepare herself for the workforce. To gain the critical skills she needed, she enrolled and began classes at the Palmetto School of Career Development, a school that provides entry-level career courses to become certified in specific career paths. Through her training, she became certified in chairside dental assisting, OSHA and radiation safety.

Only a month after she became certified, she began working with Victory Dental Center and began developing the entry-level experience that she needed to advance her career. However,she wanted to be closer to home. Having the education and work skills she needed, Ashton was able to find employment that suited her situation when she got a job with Kids First Dental. This position is not only closer to her home, it allows her to work full-time while completing her degree at York Technical College.

Use data to help with your employment decisions

Labor Market Information (LMI) is crucially important for employers to make informed decisions about their businesses in regards to employment. Many employers have discovered the value in assessing the data in their region when it comes to hiring talent.

On the state’s Labor Market Information site you will find a wide range of information about demographics, industry, occupation, wages, education profiles and education/training data.

Business consultants at the SC Works Centers statewide can assist with the gathering of specific data from LMI and provide that information to your business. Often time’s businesses seek out this information to evaluate the education and training of the current workforce, as well as a basic industry standard of wages and demographics of a specific area.

The data provided from LMI can be used to target a specific area and is useful for businesses as well as job seekers to know the training and education requirements in that region. Beyond being used by employers and job seekers, community decision makers use this data when researching the workforce potential in their area, and make data based decisions on their economic development.

Endless benefits can be found using LMI data for your business, your local Workforce Center can help you navigate this data as well as help you identify which data sets are most useful in your line of work.

To find out more about LMI services, please visit scworks.org to find the workforce center near you.