Finding and creating jobs for dislocated workers, low-income individuals and welfare recipients is much more successful when government agencies and the private and non-profit sectors collaborate to pool resources, expertise and services.
That was the experience of the Work, Education, Resources and Community (WERC) First Collaborative initiative directed by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), of Wiscasset, Maine.
For example, in the initiative’s work with dislocated workers, workforce development agencies linked with economic development entities to provide loans to job-generating start-up and/or expanding businesses. They also provided skill training to at least 200 dislocated and incumbent workers. At the same time, the Maine Department of Human Services was integral to helping the workers.
From 1997 to 2000, the three-year initiative created more than 1,500 jobs for low-income individuals and welfare recipients in Maine’s Cumberland and York counties, the Lewiston-Auburn area and the mid-coast region. Seven collaboratives formed, and all but one is still functioning.
One collaborative in the mid-coast region included CEI, Maine’s welfare-to-work program, ASPIRE and the firm Taction (formerly known as New England 800). CEI offered financing and human resources expertise, and ASPIRE paid for the customer service-training program, CSR PREP. Since 1995, when CEI first began working with Taction, its workforce grew from 50 employees to more than 100, with the average wage for customer service representatives increasing from $6.75 to $9.95 per hour. During the collaborative, Taction hired 100 new customer services representatives, 42 of whom met U.S. Health and Human Service poverty guidelines. The company is committed to customer service and to develop the skills of its workforce. Most recently it implemented “Taction University,” an in-house initiative aimed at the personal and professional development of the company’s employees. The company is also exceeding it current financial goals, with the first quarter of 2002 being its most successful ever.
CEI received a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for the WERC First Collaborative initiative. “A major outcome of the Kellogg Foundation’s support is that we successfully institutionalized a process to foster collaboratives and, as a result, better understand how to make the collaboratives work effectively,” says Ronald Phillips, CEI president.
The Kellogg Foundation continues its support of CEI’s programs to strengthen rural community organizations by increasing their access to investment capital and technical assistance activities.
CEI’s mission is to help people and communities, particularly those with low incomes, reach an adequate and equitable standard of living, working and learning in harmony with the natural environment. More information on CEI and its programs can be accessed on the organization’s Web site at www.ceimaine.org, or by calling (207) 882-7552.