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Expert: Bridgeport's The WorkPlace Addresses Complicated Job Market

Joseph Carbone
Joseph Carbone Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The WorkPlace sees an uncertain job future ahead, but the Bridgeport-based organization is using innovative programs to put people to work, President and CEO Joseph Carbone said in his recent year-end meeting of the Board of Directors.

The WorkPlace serves 20 towns, including Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Shelton, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport and Wilton.

Carbone shared some sobering statistics with his directors, including the fact that 92,500 jobs created have been created over the 2009 figures, but 70,000 come from low-wage sectors.

“Be suspicious,” he said. “Replacing a job with another job is not necessarily equal.”

The WorkPlace strives to improve skills of workers and youth, promoting lifelong learning and career ladders to help meet employers' needs.

Carbone put the regional unemployment rate at 5.1 percent with about 5,100 jobs created in November. Unemployment in October was more than 19,000 over about 16,400 in 2007 and a high of 33,630 in 2012.

The labor force has remained steady in recent months, but Carbone would like to see growth.

“Steady is not a good sign,” he said.

Carbone also noted the middle-class is shrinking from about 61 percent of the population in 1971 to about 50 percent in 2015.

But there are some positives, Carbone said. He touted The WorkPlace’s five-year-old Platform to Employment as “something that has created great momentum in this state.”

Platform to Employment works with long-term unemployed workers. All participants start with a five-week preparatory program to address any social, emotional or skill deficiencies. Then participants are matched with open positions at local companies on an eight-week trial basis, with their salaries funded by The WorkPlace.

The goal is to get the participants hired permanently.

In the most recent group, 82 participants — 70 percent of the group — found work experiences and 68 were hired, said Carbone, who attended the program's graduation.

The program is looking to expand nationally, with projects in Nevada, California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York.

Carbone said The WorkPlace’s for-profit ventures, Engage Staffing and Bluegreen Research Institute, are also growing.

Engage Staffing is a full-service general staffing agency focused on cost-effective staffing, including temporary, seasonal and project-specific staffing and temp-to-hire. Bluegreen assists businesses, industry associations and school districts and others in creating and launching programs.

“This has been the largest growth period in our history,” Carbone said. “It’s not the numbers. It’s the faces. It’s the people.” 

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