Job Training Program Creates Sustainable Opportunities

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Tompkins Weekly 8-4-14

By Anise Hotchkiss

We’ve either heard it in the news or experienced it first hand: getting a job is becoming ever more difficult. In the Finger Lakes region, even entry-level jobs are becoming slim pickings. Employers need applicants with hands-on experience but applicants need opportunities to get that experience. It’s the job market catch-22. Finger Lakes ReUse (FLR) addresses this situation through its ReSET (Skills and Employment Training) job training program.

Finger Lakes ReUse needs more sets of hands and minds processing the growing volumes of second hand materials waiting to be tested and put back to use, so this training program is mutually beneficial. ReSET was created to be a program where unemployed or underemployed individuals have opportunities to learn skills in Computer Technology, Construction Techniques or Retail and Customer Service (coming soon). In ReSET, trainees learn about the impacts of a disposable consumer culture and the value of, skills required for, and joy resulting from reusing materials. Trainees are given a safe space to learn, push their boundaries and experience success.

During the training, trainees meet and learn from local professionals and potential employers in various fields. Working side by side, FLR staff can give the trainees career counseling that is directly informed by their performance, recognizing abilities and providing feedback on areas of growth the trainees might not otherwise have experienced. All while they are gaining real-world job skills, such as computer refurbishing and troubleshooting (ReSET Tech) or basic construction skills and deconstruction techniques (ReSET Construction).

ReSET has two stages: a free 10-week, part-time, entry-level training and a more intensive, paid 15-week apprenticeship. Anyone who finishes the 10-week training can competitively apply to the apprenticeship (one or more apprentices are selected, depending on available funding) and at the end of the apprenticeship, they are provided guaranteed interviews at participating local businesses, such as Brightworks Computer Consulting where an apprentice was hired last fall.

Since its launch, the ReSET program has had a full slate of participants and has a growing waiting list. FLR is actively seeking underrepresented applicants, such as women and people of color, hoping to support greater diversity in these competitive industries.  This program gives an advantage by providing hands on experience that employers want. Trainees commit a great deal of time, and they say it’s worth it, because they enjoy the direct learning process and feel proud they are making an impact in the community, expanding access to affordable merchandise and technology.

And FLR benefits too. In its first year 18 ReSET Technology trainees tested and refurbished more than $24,000 worth of computers and computer parts. FLR can now make more reused computers available at affordable prices for our community.

This program wouldn’t have happened without the many funders that have generously supported it, including three funds and a foundation administered by the Community Foundation of Tompkins County: The H and S Fund of the Community Foundation, The Erin Aljoe Schlather Dedicated Memorial Fund, The Kathy Yoselson Fierce Determination Fund, and The Helen Thomas Howland Foundation.

FLR has also received significant support for the program from the City Federation of Women’s Organizations, Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, Park Foundation, Social Service League of Ithaca, Triad Foundation Tompkins County Solid Waste, and The United Way Youth & Philanthropy Fund.

A recent grant from NYS Empire State Development will support expansion of services in the City of Ithaca to offer retail and customer service training and plans are underway to develop a downtown training facility and Community ReUse Center. The possibilities for job training and education in every aspect of reuse, from appliance repair to creative reuse techniques are very exciting. As our greater Ithaca community and consciousness continues to grow and evolve, the tremendous value of the materials that are kept out of landfills is becoming more widely recognized. Programs like ReSET help give our community and our stuff new life.

Anise Hotchkiss is Community Programs Coordinator, ReSET Job Training Program, Finger Lakes ReUse.

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