July 13, 2007 in Business

Money to help parents find jobs

By The Spokesman-Review

Two Spokane-based employment-services organizations will receive a combined roughly $4.1 million in federal money this year to help needy parents find work.

Nonprofit Career Path Services will get about $1.8 million to serve people in Spokane, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry and Okanogan counties as part of state programs to assist parents on welfare who’ve had trouble getting or keeping jobs. While the organization has held a local contract for nine years, it also successfully bid for about $1.9 million to expand its services into Western Washington.

“They’ve done such a great job in Spokane, they applied for an area over in south King County and they were rewarded that one as well,” said Diane Klontz, WorkFirst program manager for the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

SL Start, a for-profit company, received its first program contract, worth $475,000, to serve Adams, Grant and Lincoln counties. The firm has administered similar contracts for North Idaho and was excluded from past Washington contracts as a for-profit, said Heather O’Keefe, chief operating officer.

SL Start hired two employees for a new branch office in Moses Lake, and the contract calls for the company to help about 100 people, starting this month.

The department approved contracts totaling more than $19 million statewide.

Participants in the department’s nine-year-old Community Jobs program spend 20 hours a week at job sites, 10 hours a week in educational activities or job-skills training and 10 hours a week “working with program staff on removing their barriers to employment,” according to the department.

“They go into a host site and receive real-world training to do specific tasks, and as that person gains skills and confidence, we help them find full-time, permanent, unsubsidized opportunities,” said George Iranon, CEO of Career Path Services. “It tends to give people the skills and experiences so that they can not only get off of (welfare) but get out of poverty.”

During the past six months, Career Path Services placed roughly 260 people in minimum-wage positions with about 60 local companies, Iranon said. Participants primarily are single mothers, and almost half lack a high school-level education, he said. They are placed in positions in the administrative, construction, health care and other areas.

Since July 2005, at least 58 percent of the participants assisted by Career Path Services every quarter have found unsubsidized employment, according to state statistics. From January to March, 71 percent found such work.

The contracts also will pay for other, recently started programs, such as those offering long-term, unpaid work experience or case-management help with drug addiction and other problems.

“I think society, you know, has a generous enough heart to want to help people in need, but there is an expectation that people help themselves when they can,” Iranon said. “This (program) is a vehicle to help people help themselves.”

Thirty-six-year-old Career Path Services has about 60 full-time employees statewide, and it provides free education and career services and employment help for businesses.

Founded in 1979, SL Start employs about 850 people in Washington and Idaho. It also offers services to people with developmental disabilities.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email