One-third of Bartholomew County families are not self-sufficient, meaning they don’t make at least $35,000 to sustain a family of four.
This is a serious concern the United Way of Bartholomew County is addressing through a new program called Bartholomew County Works. The intent is to help unemployed or underemployed residents find a more stable life and a job with insurance and at least the aforementioned earnings level.
Initial results indicate Bartholomew County Works is a good first step toward making a difference in people’s lives. For this program to truly make a difference in the community, though, more people need to be convinced that they will benefit by participating.
Bartholomew County Works is part of United Way’s five-year emphasis on financial stability and is funded by a $330,000 Lilly Endowment grant. Participants get help with interview and résumé preparation, online job searches, appropriate attire for interviews and the workplace, budgeting and managing emotions.
More importantly, this program has the support of 15 community partners, such as Elwood Staffing, Columbus Regional Health and Cummins Inc., that are committed to hiring and encouraging new workers.
This support is in line with local educational efforts to encourage students to graduate from high school and earn advanced degrees or certifications in order to close the skills gap, fill jobs employers are having trouble filling and earn good wages.
The good news is that 13 program participants — an 81 percent success rate — have found jobs through Bartholomew County Works.
The disappointing news is that only 16 people have taken the program’s initial classes.
Understandably, some people might hesitate to participate, especially if they know nothing about the program, are scared about what might be asked of them and never have learned soft skills that can help a person land a job.
However, a person has a lot to gain by participating, and the agencies that serve people who would be eligible for the program are tasked with spreading that important message.
Bartholomew County Works has tremendous potential to grow and impact people’s lives, but the next step should include more awareness and outreach for the program to produce larger benefits to the community — more people earning good wages and fewer people needing help with food, housing and utilities.