The Denver Office of Economic Development (OED) will launch the first local class of the popular Platform to Employment (P2E) program, a unique and ambitious curriculum that specifically targets the needs of workers who have been struggling with unemployment for six months or more.
Denver is the seventh city in the nation to launch a P2E program with the support of AARP Foundation, Citi Community Development, and the Walmart Foundation. The launch will take place November 4 during a business roundtable and program orientation.
Across both urban and rural settings around the country, the P2E program has placed 80% of its participants in work experience programs, and nearly 90% of its graduates move on to a full-time job.
“Two demographic groups who often find themselves in this category of long-term unemployed are workers over age 50 and veterans,” said Paul Washington, OED executive director. It is precisely these two categories of workers, with far-reaching needs ranging from financial counseling to mental health services for families, who are the focus of the P2E job readiness program, Washington said.
“Being out of work is challenge enough, and for those workers who are unemployed for more than 27 weeks, the challenges to remain optimistic and find sustainable employment only grow,” said Ledy Garcia-Eckstein, OED’s acting director of Workforce Development. “We are pleased to bring this program to Denver and introduce the members of our first class, a mix of these young veterans and older workers.”
Joseph Carbone, president and CEO of The WorkPlace, the Connecticut workforce council that developed P2E, will discuss the specific challenges faced by individuals aged 50 and over and veterans who have been unemployed long-term. Over the course of lunch, other speakers will include Deputy Mayor Cary Kennedy, Washington, and Garcia-Eckstein. Attendees from the business community, nonprofits, and members of the Denver Workforce Investment Board are expected to attend.
With an estimated 4.1 million Americans unemployed for 27 weeks or longer (as of September 2013), long-term unemployment remains a significant concern to reviving the American economy. P2E offers two phases of service, the first being a five-week preparatory program which includes workshops on resume writing, interview preparation, self-marketing and other skills. During this time, participants and their families will have access to optional behavioral health services and counseling through local providers.
Following the preparatory program, P2E helps participants find positions with local employers who have job openings. The employers get a risk-free evaluation of these new hires during an eight-week trial period where wages are subsidized by the program.
AARP Foundation funds specifically go to serving long-term unemployed workers who are over 50 years of age. This population continues to spend longer periods of time looking for work and securing a stable income. AARP Foundation is working to reverse the downward spiral that many older Americans and their families face.
“Today, Americans aged 50 and up face choices and pressures no one could have prepared for,” said AARP Foundation President Jo Ann Jenkins. “Job loss and long-term unemployment among those 50 and older have wiped out retirement savings and caused any hopes of a secure financial future to fade. AARP Foundation is pleased to support the expansion of Platform to Employment to help put people aged 50 and up back to work in good jobs in their communities and to pave the way to a brighter and more secure future.”
With support from Citi Community Development, P2E participants will receive financial counseling and credit rebuilding assistance through area nonprofits so they are better equipped to face the significant financial challenges many families confront during extended periods of unemployment. This training is essential at a time when many are financially overextended and have endured a reduction in regular income, or have none at all.
“Today, we offer a salute as Denver takes its place among other cities across the United States where the long-term unemployed, including our veterans, will benefit from the truly innovative Platform to Employment program,” said George Wright, Citi Midwest Regional Director of Community Development. “P2E is proving that the right job readiness programming, combined with personal and family support services and financial counseling, can return the long-term unemployed to the workforce.”
With additional support from the Walmart Foundation, P2E includes veterans in its target group to serve. The unemployment rate for veterans has remained much higher than the national average, as service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have struggled to find work. “As one of the nation’s largest private employers of veterans and those on active duty, we share The WorkPlace’s vision of a country where every veteran has a chance to succeed economically and support his or her family,” said retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Gary Profit, senior director of military programs at Walmart. “Walmart is committed to making that vision a reality by supporting organizations and programs that provide job and skills training to our veterans. These young men and women stood up for us, and now it’s our turn to stand up for them.”