Employers thanked by Work First program, grads

Jun. 21, 2013 @ 05:19 PM

When it began in 2007, it was novel but not unique. Today, statewide, it is the last of its kind.

And Vance County would be much poorer without it.

The Steps to Self-Sufficiency program offered a hearty thanks to employers Friday with a luncheon in the First Presbyterian Church fellowship hall. The program is offered through a grant and a combination of forces, anchored by Work First Coordinator Connie Ragland in the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce office.

The Vance County Department of Social Services, Vance-Granville Community College and JobLink are also key players. And the employers making the hires, those getting the thank-you Friday, are big players.

“We do relish the support of the community and the businesses,” Ragland said. “It is an employers’ market. But we try to put ourselves out there and say look, we want these individuals to be just as competitive as the next.”

In the last fiscal year, the program had 115 to start the three-week class. Of those, 53 completed the rigorous endeavor. There were also 53 hires.

In the class, among other things, students learn valuable training and tools for interviews, tips to make themselves be more employable and job search skills. There’s no guarantee of employment afterward, but results indicate a better chance.

And, the class doesn’t allow for anything less than what would be expected on a job.

“We made sure to write into the program you can be fired from the class,” said Bill Edwards, who was chamber president when the program got its footing. “We made it tough. We called it Tough Love 101.”

But Edwards, who professed belief in the program before it started, found a defining moment not long after it was off the ground.

A 23-year-old mother of one came to his office, asked if he remembered her, then gave him a hug and said, “I have my first job.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a program that has had such an impact as this,” Edwards said.

“It’s a feeling that you really can’t explain,” Ragland said, “particularly when you’re passionate about it, about helping people, and you know that there’s sometimes the circumstances that they’re in, or situations they are in, are not any fault of their own. It is one of the most rewarding positions I’ve ever been in, for them to get a job and to keep the job for a period of time.”

Honored Friday with a plaque in recognition was Endrusick Enterprises, local McDonald’s franchise owners at two locations in Henderson, and two others in Oxford and Creedmoor that has been involved with the program since inception.

“It is a valuable program that gives them confidence,” said Jeff Endrusick. “Sometimes when we interview people, they are shy, they’re a little more reserved, they don’t know how to answer our interview questions. This program prepares them better to interview and to have the confidence to perform the tasks that some of the jobs, and not just at McDonald’s, any of these jobs.”

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.