The D.C. mayor's signature employment initiative designed to help unemployed District residents find jobs reached a milestone recently amid praise for the program's success.
The One City-One Hire program, which was borrowed from Atlanta by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and Department of Employment Services (DOES) Director Lisa Mallory, placed its 3,000th resident in a job; it was announced on Wed., May 16.
Gray, 69, thanked business leaders for their participation.
"When I took office, I promised to do all that I could to get District residents back to work, and connecting more than 3,000 previously unemployed people with jobs is an important step toward that goal," he said. "I want to commend our 600-plus One City-One Hire employer partners who have committed to work closely with the District government to help find sustainable employment for thousands of unemployed District residents."
The hiring of the 3,000th resident comes as DOES released statistics that showed unemployment in the District is declining. The April numbers revealed that Wards 5, 7 and 8 showed the most improvement in fighting joblessness.
Ward 8 has the highest unemployment rate in the city with 25 percent, followed by Ward 7 at 19 percent and Ward 5 at 14 percent, according to statistics. Ward 3 had the lowest joblessness rate at three percent.
D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) said that the positive numbers show "that the District's economy is clearly on the upswing."
"The declining unemployment rate over the past eight months, from a high of 11.2 percent last September to 9.5 percent this April, further solidifies the city's position as the economic engine of the region," Brown, 41, said.
He credited the Gray administration "on their job creation and unemployment efforts."
"I pledge my full support for new programs and policies that enable our residents to become job-ready and gain full employment," the chairman said.
The success of One City-One Hire is lauded as the federal government is eliminating unemployment insurance for long-term recipients. The Extended Benefits (EB) will be discontinued in the District on Sat., June 9 as a result of the declining jobless rate.
The U.S. Department of Labor notified DOES of this development recently.
"While we're delighted to see the District's unemployment rate continue to decline, which means residents are finding gainful employment; we are going to be proactive in our outreach to all District residents who will lose their benefits when the EB program ends," said Mallory, 50. "DOES will work vigorously to notify residents about education and training opportunities and other employment services that will help lead them to a meaningful job."
More than 1,600 District residents will be affected by the change. The EB program has been in effect since March 2009 and provides additional benefits to eligible unemployed workers who have exhausted all regular unemployment insurance benefits and all Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits which are available during high periods of unemployment.
The One City-One Hire program offers assistance to job seekers and incentives to employers with inducements such as tax credits, on-the-job training, wage reimbursements to train and hire unemployed District residents, and employment screening services.
Mallory said employers are also benefiting.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for small businesses and even non-profits and start-ups to get a quick competitive advantage," she said. "The ultimate goal is for on-the-job training participants to become permanent employees and enhance their prospects for long-term employment."
Darryl Pixley, an assistant building engineer who works for the DC USA mall in Columbia Heights, benefited from the One City-One Hire program.
Pixley, 31, said he's been employed at the Northwest site for more than a month. He credits the One City-One Hire program for finding him suitable employment.
Pixley said that as a result of the pre-screening process, he met with several employers who had an interest in his electrical skills. Then he was contacted by DC USA.
"I interviewed with DC USA twice before they decided to hire me," said Pixley who lives in Northwest.
The Courtyard at Marriott Convention Center in Northwest is also a participant in the program. General Manager Thomas Penny III is a rising star in the city's corporate circles and is one of a handful of blacks who run a major hotel in the city.
Penny recently hired Telma Giron.
"Mr. Penny told me about the program and I decided to participate," said Giron, 24. "I graduated from Hospitality High School in June 2005 so I was familiar with him. Mr. Penny worked with me through the hiring process."
Giron works as a front desk agent at the hotel. Penny, 37, said that Giron "works hard, has good customer relations skills and can go as far as she wants in the hospitality industry."
She's thankful for One City-One Hire and Penny.
"I like my job a whole lot," she said.
However, not all of the program's participants succeed. Penny said he doesn't give up on a struggling employee.
"Some employees have the desire and will to work but do not have the skill sets needed to succeed in the hospitality industry," he said. "It is at that point that I get involved by personally mentoring them and doing things such as taking them on tours of other hotels in the area to see how they operate. When I help them in that way, 70-75 percent of the time, the employee's job performance improves substantially."
Penny said that the main factor in their improvement "was that the general manager cares about their careers."