Job-readi­ness ini­tia­tive helps un­em­ployed D.C. res­i­dents

Pro­gram aims to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY LAURA KELLY

D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber David Grosso met Wed­nes­day with the in­au­gu­ral class of the Path­ways to Work job-readi­ness pro­gram to learn how pri­vate ini­tia­tives are help­ing tackle un­em­ploy­ment in the city.

Amer­iHealth Car­i­tas D.C., a Med­i­caid provider, launched the pro­gram in Jan­uary with 14 par­tic­i­pants in the three-month ini­tia­tive.

“I think this is a great way to learn from each other and work to­gether to try and im­prove our city,” Mr. Grosso told the group dur­ing a round­table meet­ing. “I hope each one of you gets full-time em­ploy­ment out of this op­por­tu­nity. But more than that, an op­por­tu­nity to grow, just as peo­ple.”

Un­em­ploy­ment is fall­ing across the city, but res­i­dents in the District’s poor­est neigh­bor­hoods con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence job­less­ness at a much higher rate.

“We see that we have this big class gen­tri­fi­ca­tion that’s go­ing on,” said Charisse Vick­erie, an Amer­iHealth ac­count ex­ec­u­tive. “We wanted to give them that op­por­tu­nity to step into the mid­dle class, what was block­ing them from hav­ing these jobs be­fore … we just wanted to open up that door.”

Stephanie Hafiz, Amer­iHealth’s direc­tor of mem­ber en­gage­ment, said it was im­por­tant to in­clude Mr. Grosso, the Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee chair­man, so that he can be aware of the pro­gram and pos­si­bly rec­om­mend ad­di­tional re­sources.

“The pro­gram is re­ally con­tained and we’re not look­ing for fi­nan­cial re­sources,” Ms. Hafiz said. “Just sup­port­ing in the way that he does, un­der­stand­ing what the pro­gram is all about and pro­vid­ing any out­lets or re­sources that he may have at his dis­posal to com­pli­ment the pro­gram, to make the pro­gram bet­ter than it is.”

Amer­iHealth Car­i­tas D.C. launched the ini­tia­tive as one of its cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­grams. It’s open to any D.C. res­i­dent over the age of 18 with at least one child. No prior ex­pe­ri­ence is nec­es­sary, al­though ap­pli­cants are asked to pre­pare a re­sume and pass a drug test and back­ground check.

The in­au­gu­ral class in­cluded 14 women from some of District’s poor­est neigh­bor­hoods who had learned about the op­por­tu­nity through the Depart­ment of Em­ploy­ment Ser­vices.

The three-month pro­gram in­cludes a paid in­tern­ship in one of Amer­iHealth’s de­part­ments, such as com­mu­nity en­gage­ment, mar­ket­ing and ac­count­ing, among oth­ers.

Each woman has a men­tor, and the pro­gram pro­vides train­ing in com­puter lit­er­acy, email eti­quette, cus­tomer re­la­tion and in­ter­per­sonal of­fice skills, work and life bal­ance work­shops, even med­i­ta­tion.

A part­ner­ship with the YWCA al­lowed the in­terns to par­tic­i­pate in a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram for hos­pi­tal­ity and guest ser­vices.

Amer­iHealth em­ploy­ees are or­ga­niz­ing a ca­reer fair at the con­clu­sion of the pro­gram to give the in­terns a chance to net­work with health care em­ploy­ers in the area as well as com­pa­nies like Com­cast and Pepco.

The two over­ar­ch­ing goals of the pro­gram, said Ms. Hafiz, is to in­crease em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for D.C. res­i­dents and pro­vide par­tic­i­pants with a job-readi­ness foun­da­tion.

“They were as­signed at the begin­ning to su­per­vi­sors who re­ally were re­spon­si­ble for teach­ing them job eti­quette and work-ethic type skills,” she said.

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