Securing full-time employment isn’t always easy, especially when barriers like financial instability, lack of education or the responsibility of being a single parent cause hardship.
That was the case for Samantha Foster, who was pregnant two years ago and lacked a high school diploma. Foster earned her GED and began an internship at St. Vincent de Paul in retail with the assistance of Career Path Services and its WorkFirst Department of Commerce program. Her internship led to full-time employment at Kmart.
When the Kmart location on River Road in Puyallup closed, Foster was laid off, but she bounced back and, with the skills she acquired, she found full-time employment at Sears. She said she will start as a sales associate within the next month.
Career Path Services, a nonprofit organization in its 42nd year, has helped Foster and hundreds of other Pierce County residents who are seeking employment.
“We focus on workforce development, connecting unemployed with employers,” said Diane Giannobile, the program manager for the Puyallup and Lakewood branches. “We also want to help businesses increase their workforce and have great employees that are working for them.”
With headquarters in Spokane, Career Path Services is one of several statewide agencies that administer the WorkFirst Department of Commerce program. First piloted in 1998, the program receives full funding from the state Department of Commerce.
The Puyallup and Lakewood branches of Career Path Services began to administer the program on July 1, 2011.
Almost immediately, Giannobile said there was great demand, especially in the Puyallup area.
The Puyallup branch, located at the Department of Social and Health Services building on West Main Street downtown, serves residents who live across east Pierce County.
“There has been an increase in need, and a definite need in Puyallup,” said Nikki Maritvold, an employment associate. “Our funding source has recognized that need.”
Between July 2011 and last month, the budget has more than doubled from $314,000 to $992,000.
The impact has paid off. Giannobile said more than 140 Pierce County residents made the transition from Career Path Services into full-time employment between July 2012 and last June.
The WorkFirst program is based on a transitional jobs model. Clients are in the field at a job site that fits their situational needs for up to 20 hours per week, and they also visit Career Path Services, where they have a mentor who teaches them employment-building skills.
“They’re gaining work experience but also actively and aggressively searching for job opportunities,” Maritvold said. “They’re working on a resume, developing a cover letter and learning how to effectively communicate with supervisors and co-workers.”
Maritvold said clients are part of a weekly jobs club, which provides an opportunity for clients to interact with others who are seeking employment and facing similar challenges.
“Employers that come to the jobs club talk about what they’re looking for in candidates,” Maritvold said.
Giannobile said Career Path Services works with employers of all sizes, especially smaller ones who don’t have human resources departments.
“We can even help pay part of a new hire’s wages during a training period and help employers find tax credits they may be eligible for,” Giannobile said.
For clients to qualify for the program, they must be receiving TANF, state and federal assistance.
Foster said she is still on state assistance but hopes to cut ties once she begins work full-time at Sears.
“I want to move up in life and take care of my family,” she said. “What Nikki taught me gave me confidence in doing an effective interview.”
Maritvold said she is proud of Foster and her career trajectory.
“She is a highly motivated client,” Maritvold said. “Give her a goal, and she goes after it.”
To learn more
For more information or to learn how to qualify for programs offered through Career Path Services, visit www.careerpathservices.org. Program manager Diane Giannobile can be reached at 253-512-4455.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.