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WFAE takes a close-up look at how the economy is impacting people in the Charlotte region. "Faces of Charlotte's Economy" explores how the local economy is faring as the nation experiences what many experts are calling a recession.

Helping The Unemployed Learn On The Job

Sheila Hemphill is a grant specialist with Charlotte Works. She interacts with a lot of job seekers – including many who have been unemployed for a very long time.

The job training program, Charlotte Works, is all about helping the long-term unemployed get back to work. One way it does this is by covering the costs of training these new employees in Mecklenburg County. Last year, it distributed $200,000 for on-the-job training to help more than 40 people find jobs. In July, Charlotte Works received $400,000 from the federal Workforce Investment Act to invest in local businesses.  

“Their work history and credentials are often impeccable, the economy is literally just that bad,” Hemphill says.

So her agency tries to connect job-seekers and employers. Many of the employers in Charlotte who are hiring are in transportation, green energy and advanced manufacturing. These are industries where some technical skills are often required, even in entry-level positions.

“Even those who have an excellent work history and very good credentials, may be missing just the cutting-edge state-of the art tools to be fully effective with an employer’s bottom line as they keep evolving their skills and applications and requirements of their positions,” she says. 

Enter the On-the-Job Training Grant. Here’s how it works: Employers submit job proposals to Charlotte Works. The agency then suggests candidates for the job or the employer can refer potential candidates, who must be unemployed. If accepted, Charlotte Works covers up to 90 percent of the candidate’s wages for up to six months under a training contract. And employers are expected to keep the employee for at least a year after the end of their training.

One local business that has benefited is Air, Ocean, Land Freight Solutions, a shipping company in Charlotte with about a dozen employees.

Last year, it needed to hire two employees, but could only afford one. So the company’s Arthur Cottingham reached out to Hemphill.

“I think the program itself is really geared towards a small business like ours who need more employees in order for it to grow, but can’t really afford it at the time,” Cottingham says. 

Cottingham was able to hire two new employees – one in sales and one in customer service. And he’s already looking at hiring a few more next year with the On-The-Job training grant.