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Rep. West, Stark Urban League, state agency officials announce new workforce development program

Program will create "navigator" positions to assist unemployed, underemployed & impoverished Ohioans
September 15, 2020
Thomas West News

COLUMBUS- State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today hosted a press conference alongside Greater Stark County Urban League (GSCUL) President Diane Robinson, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Kim Hall, Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei, Canton City Councilwoman Chris Smith, and others to announce a new workforce development pilot program aimed at addressing poverty and unemployment in Stark County.

ODJFS awarded GSCUL a total of $383,000 in grant funding over two years, including $186,000 in year one and $197,000 in year two, to support the creation of three “employment navigator” jobs. The award also includes an additional $10,000 in operational support. Essentially, these navigators will serve as employment supports for program participants by connecting them with educational opportunities, job training opportunities, and, ultimately, a job with a livable wage. In the course of this work, the navigators will ensure that the participants stay the course and receive the various services they might need: transportation access, reliable housing, child care, health care, and so on.

“I’m so excited to see this important project to fruition, and I’m glad to have helped in the formation of this partnership between the Urban League and ODJFS,” said Rep. West. “These navigators will be such a vital resource for those in our communities who face systemic barriers to employment and a host of other fundamental needs. So many of these folks just need a hand up as they seek to make a living and a better life for themselves and their loved ones. It is my belief that this program will create the conditions for that renewal and that the navigators can help remove barriers to greater opportunities that people encounter in their daily lives.”

GSCUL’s goal for the program is to serve 125 participants in year one and 156 participants in year two. Program participants will mainly be low-income, low-skilled individuals who are either unemployed or under-employed.

The program will also focus on a culturally-infused approach that meets participants where they are and develops strategies that fit the individual’s needs and the barriers to advancement that individual faces. In other words, each navigator will create a “person-centered” plan for the individual with whom they are working.

In the course of their work, navigators will collaborate with a variety of community partners to connect participants with opportunities and ensure participants’ needs are met. These organizations include the United Way of Greater Stark County, R.G. Drage Career Technical Center, Stark State College, OhioMeansJobs Stark and Tuscarawas Counties, and a host of others.