BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- A Bridgeport program launched a year ago to put the long-term unemployed back to work is going national with $1.5 million in donations from the Walmart and Citigroup foundations.
In June of 2011, The WorkPlace Inc., Southwest Connecticut’s job development board, started its Platform to Employment, or P2E program, providing counseling, job hunting skills and paid internships for area residents who had been unemployed for more than 99 weeks.
Now the program has attracted national attention and with new backing, will be rolled out to 10 cities in 2013, starting with Dallas, San Diego, Chicago and Cincinnati in January. P2E, which also won a grant from AARP, is focusing on the long-term unemployed who are over 50 or are veterans. Walmart and Citigroup’s foundations did not immediately return requests for comment on Tuesday.
The long-term unemployed face disadvantages when trying land jobs, particularly older workers who were laid off after long periods of time with one company, said Joseph Carbone, president and chief executive officer of the WorkPlace.
"They are not a target group to be considered for employment," said Carbone. "With this large pool of unemployment there’s no reason (employers) would go this deep into the unemployment ranks to fill a position.
Human resources experts have said the issues with hiring unemployed older workers include the concern that the person won’t be happy working for a lower salary, that they lack modern skills and at least one recruiter said that some firms see those who lost jobs in layoffs as second-rate workers.
Carbone said his program is meant to provide proof to employers that these are good workers, many of whom had never lost a job before the recession. He said it’s also meant to provide some hope to those who have been slammed with rejection after rejection as they sought new jobs.
In all, about 40 percent of the unemployed population in America are counted as long-term unemployed. That’s about 5 million people nationally and more than 100,000 in Connecticut who have been without work for more than 27 weeks, according to the WorkPlace.
The program does not rely on any government funds. Organizers raised $400,000 in private sector donations to provide eight weeks of paid internships. The companies that provide the internships must agree to consider program participants for permanent positions at the conclusion of the internships, but they don’t have to guarantee a job.
"We are continuing to have excellent results," Carbone said. "About 70 percent find permanent employment post subsidy."
The WorkPlace has had about 150 people go through the program in Connecticut.
"We’re very excited about it," said Laurie Larrea, president of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, that regions job development board.
Larrea said she heard about the program on "60 Minutes," which did a story on it last year and she was also on a panel during a conference with Carbone.
The Dallas board offered a program aimed at workers who saw significant drops in salary called Momentum.
She said this group of newly unemployed was struggling to get back into the job market.
Dallas’ long-term unemployed face the same conditions as those in Connecticut, Larrea said.
Many are older and are hindered not only by their own lack of confidence, but also by the stigma of being unemployed for so long.
"It’s unacceptable," she said. "They need to work."
Fund-raising for the program, which will only rely on private donations, is being handled by The WorkPlace, she said. Dallas and other job boards rolling out the program are recruiting employers and workers for it.
For more information, visit workplace.org.