United Way’s ‘Aha’ moment on job training

It’s called the United Way Workforce Development Program, but its economic impact could be immeasurable to the people who get the help they need to improve their income.

“We’re too great a country to have people at work and in poverty,” said John Dias, executive director of the United Way of St. Charles. “We discovered the person needs a little help to get a better job.”

For Dias, the “Aha” moment about job training came with his being a member of the Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish and helping choose students for scholarships for trade school.

As applicants came through, he said he asked a young man who wanted to be certified as a diesel mechanic about going into food service, but he replied he could do that but would never make enough money to make a living.

The teen got the scholarship, but Dias understood the teen’s plight.

“The point is there was one road block between this kid and a good career – tuition money,” he said.

Dias said the thought stuck with him so much that they had research done and it showed 20 percent of parish residents are employed but living at or below the poverty level. He could not accept anyone being the working poor in a country with so much prosperity and UW committed to doing something about it.

UW connected with Catholic Charities to provide the program.Dias said they wanted a specialist or “Swiss Army knife” kind of person.

They hired Roxie Sibley as a workforce development specialist, who would operate under Catholic Charities and help fill gaps with people to step up their employment such as improving interview skills or getting a promotion on the job.

“We’ve seen success with individuals looking for fulltime employment,” Sibley said.

She has an office at Catholic Charities in Luling.Some of her clients found full-time work through their job search, and others got help. It ranged from getting basic computer training on computers, improving resumes and interviewing techniques or learning how to find jobs on the computer or a job search, Sibley said.

“We just kind of help them with any barriers they may have that’s stopping them from getting a job,” she said.

This included UW helping provide gas money or clothing to get to a job interview, and even vehicle repair money if the cost was reasonable, Sibley said.

Dias added the program could provide the help some people need to get a job with the numerous industrial expansions announced in the parish.

“Our No. 1 priority is to help people who are under employed fill those gaps that prevents them from stepping up their earning power and helping their family,” he said.These are people who live on the brink of financial disaster where a car or house repair can be devastating to their finances, Dias added.

Job training became a substanitial fit for UW’s increasingly proactive mode, Dias said.

“Over the past few years, we’ve tried to shift more of our work from presenting people from having financial hardships or preventative with health issues,” he said. “Rather than us reinvent the wheel, lets address the problem.”


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