Online Staff Report
A collaborative pilot program works to improve lives by helping public housing residents gain jobs and independence.
“Economic Empowerment Initiative: Improving Lives through Community Collaboration” will wrap up its first phase when 11 public housing residents graduate from a job training course at 2:15 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29, in the Funderburg Auditorium at Rockford Health System.
Six groups came together to make the program a reality, including the following:
• Rockford Health System — initiated collaboration and hosted job readiness training;
• Rockford Housing Authority and Winnebago County Housing Authority — identified potential candidates, provided rental housing near Rockford Health System and rent-back program to eligible candidates;
• Freeport Housing Authority Director Larry Williams — identified finalists and developed a job readiness training course;
• Workforce Connection — provided funding for job readiness training; and
• Rock River Training — certified all candidates for services under the Workforce Investment Act, supervised on-the-job training programs and provided job placement to candidates.
The program grew out of discussions Rockford Health System initiated with Rockford Housing Authority and the Winnebago County Housing Authority. Under the program, the housing authorities identified potential candidates they felt would find success through a job training program. Job preparation teacher and Freeport Housing Authority Director Larry Williams interviewed the candidates and selected the participants.
Williams has developed a job readiness training program resulting in high job placement rates combined with strong job retention. Graduates of the course must have perfect attendance and exhibit traits that demonstrate their job readiness. Williams worked with Rockford Health System to create and teach the three-week job training program for the finalists. The course is funded by Workforce Connection, which is dedicated to creating a workforce that meets the needs of area businesses.
The second phase of the program involves placing candidates into full-time jobs. Four of the graduates will receive jobs at Rockford Health System. Those graduates hired by Rockford Health System will also receive rental housing from Rockford Housing Authority within walking distance of the health system. If they remain in the program for two to three years, they will be eligible to receive a portion of the rent paid to put toward a down payment on the house they are renting.
Rock River Training, a non-profit that helps people find sustainable employment, will reimburse a portion of the employee’s salary during their on-the-job training at Rockford Health System. The organization will also provide job placement services for others who complete the program.
Dan Parod, senior vice president of hospital and administrative affairs at Rockford Health System, said: “This pilot program is amazing on so many levels. We have several organizations coming together to really make a difference and improve the lives of those going through the training. These people will gain the skills they need to become job-ready. This makes a stronger workforce for local employers by providing potential employees that have already been screened and received job readiness training. And, what’s really exciting, is that this program can be replicated by other organizations, which would expand its influence.”
The partnership team plans to offer the program again in the future.
Posted Jan. 28, 2015