Sunday, February 25, 2018

Getting the Job Done and Putting People to Work

Submitted Photos
Glenn McCauley and Charles Purvis work at American Keg Co. in Pottstown. Both graduated in the first class of Pottstown Works last May.

It's the classic re-joinder -- "Get a job!"
Damaris Martinez of Pottstown graduated from the
Pottstown Works program in August
and is employed in the deli at Giant, Upland Square.

But what if you don't have a car?

Who will take care of your kids while you work?

What if you don't know how to clinch a job interview?

What if you're homeless?

These are all barriers, among others faced by the folks who walk through the doors at Pottstown Works, a non-profit program based in the Salvation Army building at 137 King St. in Pottstown that is geared toward one thing -- helping people find and, more importantly, keep a job.
From left, Lynn Slusser, Joan Johnston and Coleen McKnight

It all began with four women -- Lynn Slusser, Wendy Egolf, Joan Johnston and Coleen McKnight -- who wanted to address what they saw as a need in the area, teaching basic job skills, which they did in the former Community Media Lab as The Mercury.

Frustrated that those they helped obtain jobs, often could not keep them, they dug deeper and discovered Cincinnati Works, a proven program that specializes in providing support after their clients get the job. They asked for help and now the program is here.

Since May, Pottstown Works has graduated three classes of four members each and put 12 previously unemployed people into the work force.

The first class of Pottstown Works graduated in May.
Since then, the program has grown to 18 graduates, all of whom
are employed or actively seeking employment.
From left, Tony Stauffer, who works at Dana; Jodeci Andrews;
Glenn McCauley and Charles Purvis.
Most of them were either homeless, or close to it, when they entered the program. None have cars and in most cases walk to work every day, in all kinds of weather.

Candidates are drug-screened and criminal background checks are conducted before they can participate in a week-long Job Readiness Workshop—a 40-hour curriculum dedicated to teaching the standards of professionalism needed to get and keep a job; things like how to dress for work, how to speak to co-workers, the importance of being on time.

As highlighted in a cover story in the winter edition of "Well-Informed," the quarterly newsletter of the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, "Pottstown Works partners with local employers such as Pottstown Hospital,
From left, state Rep. Tom Quigley, Pottstown Works Program
Director Nancy March, State Rep. Marcy Toepel, during a
recent visit to the classroom in Pottstown.
American Keg Company, Spherion Staffing and Giant to help place members in jobs for the long term. It also strives to find people jobs within walking distance, on a bus route or both.

“We gave four of our members, all of whom work in factories, bikes of their own so they can get to and from work,” said Nancy March, program director and, full disclosure, my former boss and good friend.

This year March says the goal is to shoot for 50 members and six classes.

The program has caught the attention of two local state Representatives, Marcy Toepel, R-147th Dist. and Tom Quigley, R-146th Dist., who visited recently.

March told the legislators that the program is designed to hold the students' attention.

"There's one point in the week where Wendy will come in and interrupt me, and I give her all kinds of attitude and she gives me attitude back. And then after, we discuss it. 'What did the employee do wrong? What could the boss have done better? But the bottom line is, the boss is always right,'" March told Toepel and Quigley.

And for their clients, the program is right too.

"I was always one who was very nervous during interviews, not sure how to answer the question," said Karen Liverman, who graduated from the program in January.

"It had been many years since I had been on an interview, and things had changed, times have change, technology has changed. In the class, I learned more about the skills that I need, to successfully interview and to land the position," she said.

"So I'm just so thankful for this program and I hope it continues for many, many years, because so much is needed here in Pottstown."

We agree Karen. Keep up the good work, Pottstown Works!

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