PARKERSBURG - Over the last year a number of people were able to be retrained and employed through a number of programs offered put together by the Workforce West Virginia Workforce Investment Board.
Workforce West Virginia is the umbrella title that covers a variety of partners who work with employment training programs, including the state unemployment and employment assistance agencies as well as rehabilitation services, adult education courses and new skill training programs which assist people who have lost their job, said Joyce Okes, program director for the Workforce Investment Board of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
"The idea behind the Workforce West Virginia system is when one of our customers, whether that is an employer or a job seeker, needs assistance there are all of these partners working together to provide that assistance," she said. "It cuts down having to send people around to a number of different agencies.
Paul Pitts, member of Youth Advantage, and Brenda Myers with Community Resources Inc. gather materials and assemble necessity bags last summer to give to the homeless during the countywide tally. The Workforce West Virginia Workforce Investment Board participated in programs where youth were given work experience in a variety of settings.
"It is our agencies working together to make sure the customer gets the help they need."
The Workforce Investment Board of The Mid-Ohio Valley is the administrative entity that has the sense of vision of what this assistance should look like within its nine-county region, including Calhoun, Clay, Jackson, Mason, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood counties. The board also has a fiscal responsibility for managing a number of programs that provide job retraining, additional education courses for displaced workers as well as a number of youth programs which help in job seeking, job keeping skills and career exploration.
Over the past year, through the use of Workforce Investment Act funds, the board was able to serve around 1,600 customers who came in looking for assistance in finding employment and potential training.
"Out of that 1,600, we had 437 that were actually enrolled in school and taking classes," Okes said. "We spent an average of $2,100 on tuition and books alone for each of those people."
Of 250 people who came out of the program, 70 percent found employment and 83 percent had retained employment at the end of six months and their average yearly salary was $24,000.
"Given our economy last year, we expect those numbers to increase this year," Okes said. "The economy is kicking up and we have people finishing school and starting to find employment."
Some of the programs deal with on-the-job training where they had 60 people with whom the board was able to subsidize their wages while they were learning the job which came out to around $1,600 a person.
"The majority of funding we get goes to customer service or to the people who work directly with the customer," Okes said.
The board has a youth program which served 240 youths over the past year. Through this program many youths got employment education, work experience as well as the chance to do some career exploration and college visitations.
"We had some wonderful things going on last year," Okes said.
Of those who completed the course, the majority went on to earn their high school diploma or equivalency or got a license to help them with employment.
"We have also seen the literacy in those youth increase during the time in our program," Okes said. "We work with them to raise their reading and math levels."
Over the last year, the board undertook a large summer youth program with funding from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
"They provided funding for us and we were able to serve a total of 445 youth across our nine-county area," Okes said. "The participants were between 14- and 21-years-old."
The program started in the last week of June with work readiness training where the participants learned about what an employer expects to everything from what a paycheck is going to look like to what the participants were going to do with their paycheck and they explained the deductions taken out for Social Security and FICA.
"We talked about career exploration and problem solving, the things employers are looking for," Okes said. "Then the youth are assigned out to jobs. The majority of the youth worked the last week in June to the second week in August.
"We spent over $800,000 in wages and associated costs between the youth and the supervisors in our nine-county area. That money came from Department of Health and Human Resources and that was quite a bit of money going into those counties."
The youth came out with experiences where they have learned how to get along and work with others, even if they didn't like them. The youths worked cleaning up certain areas, doing work in school buildings and some work at participating businesses.
"I think sometimes the best thing they learn is what they don't want to do for a living," Okes said.
"(Where they have had to clean areas or do other tasks) if they decide they don't want to do things like that for a living then it is important they learn the need to complete their education and go on and get some other skills."
Although many had to go back to school at the end of the summer, the program wrapped up in December with around 55 participants.
"I know a lot of the job sites were appreciative of what the youth learned and what was brought to the table," Okes said. "We are hoping to have another program this year. We don't know yet if we will have the funding."
As the economy is beginning to turn around, the Workforce Investment Board is hopeful those receiving retraining will be able to find work soon. The board is also working to make sure its programs are available throughout the region.
"We are working very hard with the customers who are finishing up the training to help them find employment," Okes said. "As we start to see the economy grow, we are putting our emphasis on getting people back to work."