A local employment program that serves job seekers with nowhere else to go is facing extinction.

Without a new funding source, the Community Progress Council's Employment Skills Training Program will disappear after Dec. 31. The two-person staff is desperately searching for a way to exist beyond 2012.

Using an arsenal of tools -- from motivational speakers to one-on-one consultations to resume-writing workshops -- the program seeks to help the unemployed find work. Also offered are tuition assistance and skill-building for specific jobs.

Nearly half of the program's clients are considered "at risk," a

category that includes people with criminal histories, single parents, drug and alcohol addicts, those who lack transportation and dishonorably discharged military veterans.

Jonathan Queen, president of Manchester-based motivational mentoring firm New Mindz, gives a presentation during a recent Employment Skills Training
Jonathan Queen, president of Manchester-based motivational mentoring firm New Mindz, gives a presentation during a recent Employment Skills Training Program event. The program may be cut off at the end of the year. (Bill Kalina photo)

"We're kind of like the last resource," case manager Greg Smith said.

About 80 percent of clients hail from York City.

How it started: Since its 2009-10 inception, when it was born out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the program's administrators estimate they've helped about 1,300 unemployed people build skills and look for work.

Many more have come looking for help. But, working on a fixed budget that's dwindled each year, there's never been enough program funding to serve everyone, Smith said.

That first year -- without a single dollar spent on advertising or marketing -- more than 1,000 people came to the Community Progress Council looking for help, Smith said. With $130,000 in stimulus funding designated for job training, 200 people got what they came for.

"They came out of the woodwork," Smith said. "Everything was word of mouth."

An appeal: The program has served people who lack options, said Barry Freeland, director of CPC's senior employment program.

Few other programs will help people with criminal histories find a job. And this one works, Freeland said.

"We need the ability to continue this," Freeland said. "Everybody says it's a great thing. Help us."

Federal funding for the program was exhausted after one year. In 2011 and 2012, the program's funding came from the state. This year, the allocation for job training was just $85,000.

The state's funding stream will dry up at the end of the year.

So far this year, Smith said, the program has served about 700 people. Of those 700 people, at least 70 have found jobs, mostly in the construction and health-care industries.

Smith, a former Army recruiter, said he took the case manager job in 2009 never expecting the program to be long term. He, too, had been recently laid off.

Joined by job coach Rebecca Phillips, a social worker with 30 years' experience, the two set to doing what they could with a one-year federal grant.

With three years of experience and dozens of success stories, the two said they want to continue helping the unemployed.

"We've become more focused, better at utilizing what money we do have," Phillips said.

After three years, "you see what's going on out there," Smith said.

"It works," Smith said. "It really works."

-- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.

How to help

Administrators of the Community Progress Council's Employment Skills Training Program are searching for public or private benefactors to fund the program beyond 2012.

For more information, or to offer help, contact case manager Greg Smith at 717-846-4600, ext. 251, or job coach Rebecca Phillips at 717-846-4600, ext. 253.