New Dallas program will help veterans and the long-term unemployed find work
By SHERYL JEAN
A program launched Monday in Dallas is designed to provide a bridge to employment for two long-term unemployed groups that have had a hard time returning to the workforce since the recession: people who are 50 and older and military veterans.
Dallas is the first stop in a national rollout of the Platform to Employment, or P2E, program, which started in Connecticut and received national attention after being featured on the 60 Minutes television show a year ago.
Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas will run the program with help from The WorkPlace Inc., a regional workforce development board in Bridgeport, Conn.; and the YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas. Twenty-four people unemployed for at least 26 weeks will participate.
The AARP Foundation, Citi Community Development and the Walmart Foundation have provided at least $950,000 in grants to finance the P2E expansion to an initial 10 cities, the groups said Monday at a news conference in Dallas.
The public-private program will focus on the long-term unemployed — people out of work at least six months — who have exhausted their jobless benefits, said Laurie Bouillion Larrea, president of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas.
Early last month, about 26,500 unemployed Texans lost eligibility for long-term federal emergency benefits because the state jobless rate has steadily declined, from 8.2 percent in December 2010 to 6.1 percent this past December. Some 230,000 people across Texas had been unemployed at least a year as of December 2011, the latest data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nationally, the ranks of the long-term unemployed declined in the last year. Still, more than 3.1 million had been out of work a year or longer as of last month. That’s about a quarter of all unemployed people.
The recession is “leaving in its tracks what will be millions of people … who will lose their connection to the workforce,” WorkPlace president Joe Carbone said at the news conference.
The P2E program he started in fall 2011 helps those people build hope, regain confidence, gain new skills if necessary and secure jobs, he said.
“There’s this enormous talent to leverage nationally of people who’ve been in the workforce for years,” said Robert Annibale, global director of Citi Microfinance and Community Development. The P2E program is a way to help bring those people back into the workforce to become economically active again, he said.
The 24 Dallas participants will go through five weeks of training, including skills assessment and financial coaching. Then they’ll start an eight-week subsidized internship at a local company that could turn into a full-time job.
The Connecticut results are encouraging. Of the first group of 100 people, nine dropped out, 73 were placed in internships, and 65 landed full-time jobs, Carbone said.
As a new investor in the program, the Walmart Foundation added the veterans focus.
Nationally, 844,000 military veterans were unemployed last month, and the 11.7 percent unemployment rate among veterans was the highest since 9/11, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In Texas, 48,000 veterans were unemployed in 2012, according to the latest BLS estimates, but the data was not broken down by service period.
Four of the 24 Dallas participants are female veterans 30 or younger, Larrea said.
One is Keiwana Northington, who left a nine-year Navy career in December. She has since sent out about 50 résumés but hasn’t found a job.
“It’s kind of been a struggle,” said Northington, 30. “Hopefully, things will get a little better sooner than later.”
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