(SCRANTON, 08/28/2019) – With the help of a local foundation, 2018 Nonprofit of the Year Outreach – Center for Community Resources (formerly EOTC) has enhanced its existing workforce development program with the launch of L.E.A.D. (Lead, Educate and Develop), a project that is identifying gaps in Lackawanna County’s labor force and training job seekers to fill those positions. The program is unique because it is establishing an “employment pipeline” with manufacturers and businesses, and providing job seekers with vocational training in areas where labor shortages exist.

The employment pipeline is reaping results: 81 percent of job seekers between March 11 and June 14, 2019 found part-time or full-time work, earning salaries as high as $13.25 per hour. More than 75 percent of the L.E.A.D. participants were parents, impacting 34 minor children. In March alone, 14 job seekers out of 18 found employment within two weeks of visiting Outreach.

Lackawanna County is facing a major employee shortage within the next few years, according to The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development at Wilkes University. A recent Institute study reported the area will see a “net deficit of nearly 9,390 workers” within five years. Outreach’s project is meant to be a catalyst for change to help bridge the gap between the unemployed and employers seeking trained staff.

“For more than 30 years our mission has been to move families toward stability and economic self-sufficiency,” said Executive Director Linda Ciampi. “This is a real win-win. If we help a parent obtain gainful employment, that will help lift children out of poverty and greatly increase their chances of school success. A working family also becomes a productive member of our community.”

While Outreach’s existing workforce development and job search group are open to anyone – a policy that will continue – L.E.A.D. targets those returning to the community after incarceration because of the tremendous obstacles they face in obtaining employment. The irony is that many of these individuals may have ended up incarcerated because of their own parents’ unemployment and poverty. A March 2018 Brookings Institute study found that “The poorer your parents are, the more likely you are to be incarcerated,” and children born into poverty are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed themselves.

Outreach has named former Prison Programs Manager Jane Augustine to the position of Program Director, where she’ll oversee the L.E.A.D. Center as well as all justice-involved programming, such as GED and life skills courses at Lackawanna County Prison, re-entry and Treatment Court programs, and supervised visitation and family reunification.

Jennifer Shoemaker, Prison Team Case Manager, has been promoted to L.E.A.D. Manager. In her new position, Shoemaker provides skills and interest assessments to job seekers to help match them with appropriate vocational training and jobs. She’s also establishing relationships with prospective employers and informing them of the Federal Bonding program. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Fidelity Bond is offered to employers free-of-charge and works as an incentive to hire someone with a “high risk” background.

“We believe that employment is the cornerstone to a family’s well-being,” Shoemaker said.

“Many folks coming out of Lackawanna County Prison want to work but they just need a boost to get a foot in the door,” Augustine added. “Through L.E.A.D. and our enhanced programming, we hope to help people find gainful work and break the cycle of recidivism and poverty.”

L.E.A.D. also offer services through the new Recovery Bank, a project of the Veterans Treatment Court Advocacy Center. People interested in accessing L.E.A.D. should call Outreach at (570) 348-6484.