Nevada’s employment division has launched a pair of programs to help those workers most likely left behind during the recession to find jobs.
The state’s December unemployment rate hit 6.8 percent, the lowest it has been since June 2008 and down 2.2 percent from the same month a year earlier. In Reno-Sparks, the rate fell to 6.2 percent, down 2 percent from the same month in 2013, while in Carson City the rate hit 7 percent, 2.2 percent better than a year earlier. All of the state’s counties posted unemployment rates in the single-digits.
In 2014, the private sector added 38,200 jobs in Nevada.
Still, about 41,000 long-term unemployed individuals, people who have been without work for 27 or more weeks or who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, are still jobless, according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
So DETR has started up a program called Platform to Employment — or P2E — since being awarded a $1.8 million grant through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program. The five-week program provides attendees with skills assessment, coaching and counseling to help them prepare for reentering the workforce after a lengthy layoff.
“It’s about let’s change our mindset about getting back to work,” said Renee Olsen, administrator of the DETR’s Employment Security Division.
P2E also provides a significant incentive for employers: the program pays 100 percent of a worker’s wages for four weeks and 50 percent for the next four weeks. And employers are under no obligation to hire the employee after the 8-week trial period.
The new program, which is administered by The WorkPlace, one of nine regional workforce development boards in the state of Connecticut, started with 25 people in Las Vegas, a third of whom were placed in jobs before graduating in December.
Last week 26 more people started the P2E program in the first northern Nevada class, being held in the KNPB PBS studios near the University of Nevada, Reno.
Olsen says she hopes some are placed in positions even before their March 3 graduation date.
“If a company has an immediate need they should get in touch about hiring as soon as this week,” said Olsen.
A dozen interested employers attended the Reno launch.
“We’re always interested in programs like this and I think this is a good program,” said Carmen Smith, human resources and recruiting manager for Grand Sierra Resort.
GSR is currently looking to fill about 100 positions and was also hosting a job fair at the Reno casino hotel last week.
“It’s fabulous. Can they start right now?” said Dawn Tate, regional retail trainer for Goodwill Industries International Inc. She said Goodwill has four retail positions, including two in management, in some of its northern Nevada stores. “We’re going back to sign up right after this.”
Both employers and workers have to apply online at platformtoemployment.com to participate in the program.
Last month DETR also unveiled a program with Starbucks Coffee Co. called the Starbucks Inclusion Academy.
The six-week program trains disabled workers in the basic skills needed to work in warehouse, distribution and manufacturing sites such as the Starbucks roasting plant in Minden.
The pilot class of seven graduated in October 2014 and one graduate is working at Starbucks roasting plant and four others have found work in similar warehousing and distribution positions. A second class of four graduated two weeks ago.
The program originated at Starbucks, based on a similar program at Walgreen Co., and is now funded by DETR.
Starbucks is talking with UTi Worldwide Inc. and ITS Logistics Inc., both in Reno, to expand the program to more employers, said Todd McCullough, distribution operations manager at the Starbucks roasting plant.
“We want to partner with more businesses so we can look to different places for jobs,” said McCullough.