TAMPA — Tampa became the 10th U.S. city Monday where a non-profit firm focused on solutions to long-term unemployment launched a pilot program to assist 20 participants to rejoin the job market, including funding their salaries with new employers for a short time.
The WorkPlace, a non-profit Connecticut based firm, plans to return to Tampa this autumn and create another 85 project positions for the long-term unemployed in an effort to create momentum for its innovative concept.
“The numbers of people are insignificant,” said Joseph Carbone, President and Chief Executive Officer The WorkPlace, who hopes to add another 25 cities to the initial 10 in September. “We are out to create public awareness of long-term unemployment and to help some people compete in the workforce through the program.”
This has been a mean recession, with effects persisting nearly five years since economists said the recession ended, Carbone said.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said the number of people unemployed 27 weeks or longer rose by 203,000 in February to 3.8 million.
Another 10 million people were working part-time and seeking full-time work, while 2.2 million had left the workforce and do not show up on monthly unemployment reports.
Tony Perga, one of the pilot project selectees in Tampa, lost his six-figure job managing multi-million dollar loan portfolios in a Colonial Bank layoff in early 2009. He’s relied on personal initiative as a self-employed real estate consultant, listing several projects on his resume to which he’s contributed since working for Colonial.
Perga said he was replaced on his job by a younger person he believes was hired at a much lower salary. He’s filed more than 200 applications for jobs, but has had only about 10 interviews.
“It’s become so impersonal,” Perga said. “A lot of (applications are) screened by computer programs. I applied for openings at two places where I worked, and there was nowhere on the application for me to check that I’d been a previous employee, that they had my job files.”
Under The WorkPlace’s Platform to Employment program, the 20 members in the pilot program will spend five weeks in rigorous job seeking coaching program, including skills assessment and employee assistance.
Participants must find a job, then placements made on a trial basis are paid for by The Work Place, which has raised funds from more than three dozen companies, non-profits, foundations and individuals and the Citi Community Development and AARP Foundation grants.
The P2E program pays wages for the first four weeks and The WorkPlace negotiates — generally on a 50-50 basis, paying wages for another four weeks, which is intended to make hiring the workers basically risk free for employers.
(That is similar to CareerSource Tampa Bay’s Internship Program, which provides opportunities for individuals who have completed occupational classroom skills training that need to gain job-related skills and are reimbursed up to 80 percent of the intern’s wages.)
The P2E program has placed 80 percent of its participants into work experience programs and 90 percent of those individuals obtained full-time employment.
The WorkForce selected Tampa as a pilot project site because it had a good base of support in the community, Carbone said.
Bob Rohrlack, president and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, attended a P2E briefing Monday at the Career Source Center to gather information for his board of directors.
Richard Peck, owner of Oldsmar metal fabricator QTM, said he’d apportion three of his 30 jobs for participation in the P2E program.
“I’m always looking for people of character who show up for work on time and are willing to learn,” Peck said.