Pathways to Employment is a community-based initiative linking Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), the Department of Social Services, community businesses, and other organizations to move participants from welfare to work. In September 1998, CPCC in cooperation with the Department of Social Services developed a flexible, short-term program targeted for welfare recipients that provides academic, social, and job-specific training designed to prepare them to enter the workforce as skilled employees.
As a leader in adult education and literacy, CPCC’s Community Development Department recognized the need to provide strong basic skills and workplace skills in order for welfare recipients to succeed when their benefits lapse. It was determined that a course of study that provided education in an area of high worker demand while reinforcing basic skills and employment skills was necessary.
In an effort to provide short-term training that enables a welfare participant to find successful employment, CPCC in partnership with the Department of Social Services researched areas of employer needs. This collaborative effort gave CPCC a more accurate representation of the needs of the business community. With this information, CPCC provides relevant skills training that benefits both the labor market and program participants.
In addition to its strong partnership with the Department of Social Services, the Pathways program is linked with other organizations to meet the needs of the community. Organizations such as the United Way of Central Carolinas, Charlotte Enterprise Community, Christ Episcopal Church, Johnston YMCA, Sprint PCS, Carolinas Medical Center, Employment Security Commission, JobLink Centers, Break the Cycle Foundation, Charlotte Women’s Shelter, the Charlotte Housing Authority, Goodwill Industries, Freddie Mac, and the City of Charlotte Neighborhood Development all participate in the Pathways program by offering scholarships and participant support.
Funding from the various partners in the program is itemized below:
A CPCC curriculum faculty task force set about developing a short-term training program that was responsive to local employment needs, contained components of cognitive and affective skills that employers indicated were needed in successful workers, and represented the first rung of a career ladder in an employment field of continued growth potential. The resulting program represents a shift away from instructional offerings based on seat time and grades toward designs that are self-paced, outcome-based, and focused on interpersonal as well as technical skills, and that provide an opportunity for work experience. The model incorporates three integrated components: human resources (employability and life skills); basic skills (reading, math, communication skills, and GED preparation); and the job skills necessary to succeed in a specific field. It is delivered in a 12-week format.
The development of the curriculum options is based on workforce needs in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. Curriculum options include Medical Reimbursement Specialist; Office Information System Specialist and Receptionist; Customer Service Representative; Hospital Unit Coordinator; Medical Office Administrative Procedures; Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration; and Vinyl Siding Installation.
A partnership with the Department of Social Services provides an effective way to recruit, manage, and retain welfare participants in the Pathways program. An on-site Department of Social Services representative provides much needed support to both the program and its participants. The social worker has access to potential program participants and has knowledge of funding sources, which helps in the recruitment of candidates who can benefit from the program. The partnership between CPCC and the Department of Social Services assures a successful program and improves retention by providing students with social services support. Direct access reduces scheduling conflicts and assists with personal issues such as childcare and transportation that may interfere with the participant’s study schedule.
Pathways developed partnerships with local employers to help students obtain employment upon graduation. To that effect, businesses partnering in the program have agreed to give consideration for employment to program participants. Representatives from area businesses and placement agencies such as Carolinas HealthCare System, Presbyterian Hospital, Sprint PCS, MedClaim, Superior Mechanical, LT Mechanical, Ross & Whitmer, B.B. & T. Bank, Kelly Services, Pro Staff, and Med Dent provide valuable opportunities for field trips, clinical experiences, job shadowing, and guest speakers. Representatives from these organizations and others participate in job fairs for the college’s graduating classes.
Results and Impact
The Pathways to Employment program has enjoyed success for a variety of reasons:
The Pathways to Employment program links many facets of the community to better assure the success of the individual participant. The very high retention rate of 80.25 percent is indicative of the program’s success. To date, 423 students have graduated from the program, and 343 clients (81 percent) were employed after six months. Seventy-seven percent were employed after one year. Fifty percent of those students needing a GED earned it during the course of their program. Seventy-five percent of the graduates are no longer receiving TANF benefits, and the average pay is $10.50 an hour. Follow-up data is collected by Pathways to Employment staff and the Department of Social Services.
The success of the participants gives credence to claims of the value of strong community links and quality education integral to the Pathways program. The quality of the short-term training, with its integrated curricula, on-site social worker, and strong partnerships with community agencies makes the Pathways to Employment Program at Central Piedmont Community College truly successful.
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This article is from the new book, Building a Workforce System Through Partnering, recently published by the League for Innovation in the Community College with support from Microsoft Corporation.
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