By MATT O’BRIEN Associated Press
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island announced a new public-private initiative Wednesday to help long-term unemployed residents find jobs.
Gov. Gina Raimondo and other state officials unveiled Skills for Rhode Island’s Future at a Bank of America call center in East Providence, which is hiring some new workers through the program.
The state obtained $1.25 million from the U.S. Department of Labor last year to launch it.
The business-led partnership began over the summer matching employers with people who’ve been unemployed for more than six months, or underemployed and looking for a better job. Executive director Nina Pande said employers have already committed to hiring 150 people.
The program plans to identify qualified job candidates through resumes they submit when seeking unemployment insurance; those looking for work can also sign up for job information on the program’s website.
The template for the initiative comes from the nonprofit Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which claims to have found jobs for more than 3,100 people in Chicago since 2012. Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker helped start the organization before joining the Obama administration as U.S. commerce secretary in 2013. Rhode Island is the group’s second location as it seeks to expand around the country under the name Skills for America’s Future.
Rhode Island’s unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in August, about half of its 11.3 percent peak in mid-2009. But Raimondo said too many people are still looking for work.
The Democratic governor said the initiative could help “people in their mid-career who have skills and have worked, but they’re out of work now. We’re trying to connect them with available jobs.”
Scott Jensen, director of Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training, said the initiative aims to break barriers for people whose resumes fall to the bottom of the pile through no fault of their own because of a long gap in their employment.
READ MORE: Daily Progress