A wealth of workers Featured

9:57am EDT July 22, 2002

With employers hungrily clamoring after what seems to be a rapidly vanishing segment of the job market, solid entry level employees, a new facilitator to the labor market has sprung up to address the need.

The Employment Alliance, newly located in the West 25th Street neighborhood of Cleveland, is a collaborative job-placement initiative among the West Side Community Mental Health Center, the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeast Ohio, Hill House and Spectrum of Supportive Services. The alliance will serve as the employment liaison for the four social service agencies and expects to place as many as 500 clients each year.

In addition to those directed to it by its constituent organizations, employment-seeking clients will come through referrals from county mental health case workers and the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. In most cases, companies that hire these clients will be eligible for federal tax credits under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program. Other government programs provide resources for capital expansion in exchange for hiring disabled workers.

“Our mission is rehabilitation, so we look to develop jobs in the client’s area of interest,” says The Employment Alliance’s director, Betsey Kamm. If a client has an interest or a work history in dog grooming, that’s where the initial focus of the job search will be. But about 70 percent of the clients are expected to land in entry level employment, where they will be competing with the pool of former welfare recipients — about 20,000 in Cuyahoga County alone — who are now being moved to the job market in the wake of federal welfare reform legislation. At the same time, however, the alliance will be dovetailing on the social service infrastructure that has grown up around the Welfare to Work movement.

Many of the Employment Alliance’s clients lack their own cars, and thus, the focus will be on identifying employers located along routes served by public transit. But as so-called reverse commute (transporting people on public transit from inner-city areas to suburbs with active job markets) opportunities increase, job possibilities are expected to expand.

For further information, contact Carol Howlett, the alliance’s employer liaison, at (216) 875-0460.