On October 23, 2014, as a result of this award and our current OJT work, representatives of the Fund, our union affiliate and our employer partners had the honor of meeting with US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Secretary Perez invited us to join him in a roundtable discussion with two other projects, so he could learn more about efforts to hire and train the long-term unemployed in both our current project and the new grant, including our plans to implement Apprenticeships.
Thomas, Industry Partnership Director for our Greater Philadelphia Healthcare Partnership, and H-1B grant project manager; Meg Shope Koppel, Senior VP at Philadelphia Works, Inc.; Karen Rafferty, Director of Nursing Education and Performance Improvement and New to Nursing OJT project manager at Temple University Health System (TUHS); Heather Marcuzzo, a new nurse hired through the program; Grace Rutha, a long-term unemployed immigrant who will be the first CHW Apprentice at Philadelphia FIGHT, a leading AIDS service organization which operates Federally Qualified Health Centers; and Danica Moore, who will be managing the CHW Apprenticeship program at FIGHT.
The meeting began with introductions by Assistant Secretary of Labor Portia Wu, who reviewed President Obama’s initiatives to get the long-term unemployed hired. Secretary Perez then shared his own thinking – that reemployment of the long-term unemployed is a top priority that can keep him up at night. He emphasized the need for innovative programs and partnerships to make this hiring a reality. He believes there are a lot of long-term unemployed individuals, who through no fault of their own have lost jobs and cannot easily reconnect with the workforce. He has personally met many such people, with great talents that need to be put to use.
In addition to the Training Fund, other roundtable participants included the Anne Arundel Maryland Workforce Development group and the New Jersey Consortium of Community Colleges. Each of the organizations brought representatives of their own management, as well as employer partners and program participants who were previously or are currently long-term unemployed. All three programs have innovative elements. Anne Arundel is working collaboratively with the AARP to create employment opportunities for older workers, the Training Fund is implementing Registered Apprenticeship in healthcare, and the New Jersey Consortium has impressively reached 100,000 workers and brought mobile learning to manufacturing sites that need skilled workers.
Secretary Perez was moved by the stories of program participants, and he encouraged them to not give up on themselves under tough circumstances. He asked all of us to be ambassadors for the long-term unemployed, and to spread the word with our credibility.
We are proud of our work, and thankful to Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor for providing us with the support necessary to implement our On the Job Training and new Apprenticeship programs. We also are proud of our employer partners and program participants, who told their stories so well in this meeting. We look forward to being able to share more success stories, and see more long-term unemployed Americans obtain employment in high-demand fields such as healthcare.
Click here for Grant Announcement PDF.