At its roots, the Platform to Employment program was meant to be a research endeavor — a social enterprise, as The WorkPlace Inc. CEO Joseph Carbone calls it.
The goal, Carbone said, has been to prove to private corporations that the long-term unemployed — including tens of thousands of Connecticut residents who have been out of work for more than two years — are still employable.
With nearly two-thirds of the 100 initial participants in the Platform to Employment (P2E) program now in full-time positions, The WorkPlace has secured $1.85 million in funding and pledges from foundations affiliated with AARP, Citibank and Walmart to expand its trademark initiative in Connecticut and nationally.
Over the next several months, The WorkPlace will launch replication P2E sites that will work specifically with unemployed veterans and individuals over the age of 50 in 10 U.S. cities, beginning with Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas and San Diego, the Bridgeport-based nonprofit announced Nov. 15.
Subsequent expansions of the P2E program are scheduled to take place in Boston, Denver, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami and Minneapolis in early 2013, Carbone said.
While the government has programs aimed at helping specific populations – such as veterans or people with disabilities – to find employment, few resources exist for those without work who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, Carbone said.
“You can’t promise everybody a job. All you can do is to have the services and tools in your system to help people overcome barriers,” Carbone said. “But we don’t do it for this group. … There’s nothing worse than suffering from a deprivation of hope, and these folks are in that category.”
The idea for the P2E program was hatched when The WorkPlace, which serves as the Connecticut Department of Labor’s (DOL) Workforce Investment Board for the southwestern portion of the state, received a notice from then-acting DOL Commissioner Linda Agnew in May 2011 that 12,300 residents were on the verge of exhausting their unemployment benefits.
P2E launched later that summer. The program aimed to help participants market themselves as viable job candidates despite prolonged periods of joblessness.
After five weeks of intensive classroom work and counseling services, participants would then be matched with employers, with The WorkPlace paying their salaries for the first four weeks and then asking for the employer to match its contributions for the next four weeks.
The P2E program cost $6,000 per participant, with The WorkPlace securing $600,000 in contributions from more than three-dozen corporations, foundations and individuals.
To date, 64 of the 100 people who participated in the pilot P2E program have been hired full-time, with another 19 still searching for work or in the midst of supplemental job training programs.
“This was very inexpensive,” Carbone said. “For $600,000, we’ve moved – as of right now – 64 people. Every one of them was unemployed for two years or longer. … They’re going to be earning money, they’re going to be paying taxes and they’re not going to be moving on this road toward greater dependence on the regional safety net.”
The initiative has gained steam since being featured as part of a February 2012 segment on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Since the program aired, Citi Community Development, a foundation affiliated with Citibank, has donated $400,000 to The WorkPlace for the expansion of P2E both in Connecticut and nationwide.
Additionally, the Walmart Foundation has donated $250,000 for the expansion of the initiative to include unemployed veterans in the 10 cities participating in the rollout announced Nov. 15.
The AARP Foundation has already donated $200,000 for the program to be expanded to include unemployed Connecticut residents over the age of 50, and has said it will donate a total of up to $1 million for similar efforts in each of the 10 cities that will soon feature P2E offshoots.