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Helping People Get And Keep A Job

P. Kenneth Burns

One of the issues raised in the wake of riots after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody was the lack of jobs in his neighborhood.  More than a quarter of the adults there are out of work.

But it's not just a lack of jobs that's the problem; it's making sure people who get past the interview can hold the job down.

Kelly Little, former executive director of the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, said a company approached his organization in April wanting to hire people from the community.

"We had a bunch of men and women show up on a Saturday," Little said, "Even before Saturday, we helped people put their resumes together."

One hundred people showed up hoping to get one of the 14 positions available.  But Little learned something disturbing before he left the corporation in May.

"[I] talked to the gentleman [and] found out of the 14 people that he hired, he only had two still with him."

Little said the 12 people who were no longer with the company were not terminated; they just stopped showing up for work in a three week period.  He adds that the scenario is typical.

Teaching Work Ethic

The One Stop Career Center is where Baltimore City residents get ready to go to work.

The center, operated by the Mayor's Office of Employment Development, not only helps residents with updating their skills and their resume; they hope to avoid situations that Little saw often in Druid Heights.

Gerald Grimes, project manager at the Northwest One Stop Career Center at Mondawmin Mall, said building work ethic means building trust with people who come in.

"We can give all of the information out that we want.  But if the person doesn't think you care or even worst think you are being condescending or belittling them; they don't hear you," he said.

Grimes' staff, called career navigators, helps job seekers address barriers to work that most people do not think about.

The center helps people earn high school diplomas; essential for even the basic jobs.

But for some, the biggest barrier is in their past - a criminal record.

The northwest one-stop center also has another center within, The Re-entry Center - "The Rec" for short, which helps those re-entering society.

Grimes said they assist people with how to address their past transgressions in job interviews

"There's ways to let somebody know 'Yeah, I made a mistake in the past but that was not who I am; I'm somebody else now and we're moving forward," he said.

Grimes added that the center's approach is not a "sitting-in-a-classroom-for-hours" approach; it's doing whatever it takes to get job seekers employed.

This report is part of a collaboration of 88.1, WYPR and 88.9, WEAA with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.