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.

New unemployment tax system coming soon

The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) is upgrading and modernizing our tax system portal.

This new online system, the State Unemployment Insurance Tax System (SUITS), is designed to help you file unemployment insurance wage reports and pay unemployment insurance taxes. It is anticipated that SUITS will be implemented in the fall of 2017. The customized system will offer immediate account accessibility and streamlined business processing with the capability to:

  • Submit online registrations and changes to obtain liability determinations.
  • Utilize online tools to file wage reports and submit tax payments.
  • Access account history.
  • Change and update account information.
  • Communicate with a DEW representative.

To download the file format specification documents for filing your wage reports and taxes, click here. You can access a copy of the most current written authorization form to appoint an individual, firm or organization as your representative here.

 

Businesses find giving ex-offenders a chance creates loyal employees

One of first things Brian Stirling did as the director of the S.C. Department of Corrections is watch how people are released from prison.

He noticed that they are dropped off at the bus station that was formerly at the corner of Gervais and Harden streets in Columbia. Many of the newly released offenders were enticed by drugs and prostitution before they could leave town.

“Some people didn’t have a chance,” he said during a panel discussion at the 2017 Workforce Development Symposium hosted by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) and the State Workforce Development Board (SWDB).

He first instituted a plan to where if an inmate has a family member pick them up, they could leave prison at the beginning of the month. Next he focused on getting them a job even before they leave prison.

“My goal is to have a job for them to have a job before they leave,” he said. Having a job reduces the recidivism rate by 10 percent, he said. The recidivism rate for ex-offenders without a job is around 24 percent but only 14 percent among ex-offenders who are working.

With approximately 900 people are released from South Carolina prisons every month, former Gov. Nikki Haley urged the Corrections and DEW to partner in helping returning citizens find employment.

The Second Chance program began as a pilot program at the Manning Correctional Facility in Columbia. Through this initiative, DEW provides a full-time employee, coaching and materials to assist returning citizens in work-skills training.

Ninety days prior to release, ex-offenders are taught employment and soft skills in class for one hour each day. During the last 30 days, participants work directly with a DEW counselor to become registered in the SC Works system, craft a resume and apply for jobs online once released.The skills they learn through the Second Chance Initiative help leverage the skills they’ve acquired through the work programs.

Participants in the Second Chance Initiative receive a folder at the time of release that includes a Federal Bonding letter, several copies of their resume, a letter of explanation that outlines their personal situation, information on the SC Works centers across the state and contact information for a case manager in their local SC Works center, and any other information or available resources relevant to that individual.

“We want to make it hard for people to fail,” Stirling said.

Cheryl Stanton, DEW’s executive director, said as the unemployment rate falls to near record lows, the agency and employers start focusing people with barriers to employment, such as ex-offenders.

To encourage businesses to take a chance, DEW can help employers access tax credits through the federally funded Work Opportunity Tax Credit program. Employers can also receive protection through the Federal Bonding program to insure them when hiring a high-risk applicant, Stanton said.

“People in prison are not lazy, they made wrong decisions,” Stirling said.

Ken Ellington, director of Engineered Wood at Shaw Industries Group Inc. which has a manufacturing plant inside the Tyger River Correctional Facility in Enoree, S.C., and several plants outside the prison system, said about 50 percent of its South Carolina workforce are ex-offenders.

“We have a ton of skilled people,” he said. “They will become life-long, loyal employees.”

For more information about the Second Chance program click here, or contact Grey Parks at bparks@dew.sc.gov.

 

Volvo to invest in locally grown workforce

Katarina Fjording, vice president of purchasing and manufacturing for Volvo Cars U.S. Operations, wants to develop the workforce for the company’s first U.S. manufacturing facility locally, she said during her keynote address at the 2017 Workforce Development Symposium on Feb. 8.

Volvo is building its plant in Berkeley County and has said it will need 2,000 employees. Fjording said 43,000 people have shown interest in working for the company. But of that number, approximately 1,500 people will qualify because of the company’s hiring procedure.

“It is our job to figure out how to make that lower number higher,” she said.

However, she does not want to bring in too many people from outside the state as other companies have done. When speaking with other original equipment manufacturers (OEM) they told her they hired between 60 to 70 percent of their workers from outside the state.

“These are the jobs that we need to fill with people right here,” she said.

Her plan is to take the money that would be used for relocation and invest it into education. Volvo is working with Trident Technical College to develop curriculum that will help people interested in working for the company to know what the qualifications are and to provide them with the education needed to compete for their jobs.

“We want as many as possible, as local as possible,” she said of her

Workers at Volvo's Torslanda, Sweden, plant assemble a Volvo XC90. (Photo courtesy of Volvo)

Workers at Volvo’s Torslanda, Sweden, plant assemble a Volvo XC90. (Photo courtesy of Volvo)

workforce.

“What we need are a log of technicians and first level maintenance engineers,” she said. “A lot of our jobs don’t need someone with a rocket science education.”

Also it is up to all involved in workforce development to educate the community that manufacturing is not the dirty, greasy job that many people imagine when they think about manufacturing, Fjording said.

“This is a very clean and safe environment, and there are loads of good jobs in the industry,” she said.

“We want good people who care to work for us. They are wanted.”

DEW employee works hand-in-hand with economic developers

tiffany

Tiffany Jaspers says she is a translator.

As the business economic development manager for the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW), Jaspers reaches out to local officials to find out what skills and talents their workforce has and translates that information for economic developers in their efforts to attract businesses to their areas.

Jaspers certainly understands the roles economic developers play. Before joining DEW a few months ago, she worked in economic development for Lexington County.

The other part of her job is letting industry associations and chambers of commerce know what information and services the agency can provide.

“I spend all my time with economic developers and industry-related associations,” she said. “When I meet with them I simply ask ‘what is going on?’ It’s more of a listening session and then I can determine ways to help.”

And when she meets with someone she takes them something of value, such as our workforce data which extremely important for economic developers, she said.

While Jaspers doesn’t work directly with individual businesses, she recognizes that each business is different and programs and services must be tailored to their specific needs. But first she must get out to the businesses through the chambers and associations what services DEW can provide.

You can reach Jaspers at tjaspers@dew.sc.gov.

 

Walgreens is a model of inclusiveness

There is no “them” at the Walgreens distribution center in Anderson.

The 1 million-square-foot distribution center has become the model for hiring people with disabilities. Currently, about 40 percent of the center’s staff is made up of people with a registered disability. Recently the State Workforce Development Board Priority Population committee toured the facility to learn about the company’s practices.

Randy Lewis, Walgreen’s senior vice president of supply chain and logistics, implemented the idea of hiring people with disabilities as a result of his personal experience of having a son with a disability.

The company provides work environments that are inclusive that include visuals on the work process, touch screens computers with large icons and flexible workstations.

The company works with S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation, which works with the client during a 12-week training period. After that time, the company may offer the individual a full-time job. The company has said people with disabilities receive the same pay and work beside with all other employees.

“People with disabilities like to work. They want to be here,” said Lasandra Aiken, with the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department in Anderson. She added that she has placed 54 clients with the company and has had only two quit.