The Work Experience Program seeks to assist eligible high school dropouts ages 18-21 with obtaining their GED and gaining full-time employment. Eligible participants are allowed to work 24 hours per week while attending adult education classes 16 hours per week.
Barbara Baker of Manila is one of the four career advisers in the Blytheville Work Force Office. Baker explained that the ongoing program is geared in helping the young adults earn their GED as well as develop job skills that will enable them to be independent and self-supporting. The young adults are placed in jobs around the community in non-profit organizations for three days a week and attend GED classes two days a week. Once the GED classes are completed or for those that have their GED, they are allowed to work four days a week and use one day for job search.
Baker explained the Jump Start classes, through the Workforce Center, is a requirement for the young people in the Work Experience Program. She pointed out that the Jump Start classes are also open to anyone in the area of all ages. The Jump Start consists of six classes and is presently being held at the Mississippi County Library in Blytheville.
The Jump Start classes include topics such as life management skills; attitude; interviewing skills and dressing for success; job search skills; job application, resumes and letters; and more. The most recent classes were completed on Nov. 19 and a new group will begin in December. Any one can apply for the classes but there are a maximum number of 30 per class. Baker said 20 are already enrolled for the December class.
"We take applications year round," Baker said. "The work experience program is based on funding available. The program began this round in October."
The program is federally funded.
The WIA started in Arkansas July 1, 2000 and Baker went to work for them on July 31.
Baker worked at EIS in Manila until it closed and worked in the employment office in Blytheville when she learned about the program.
"It is a rewarding job," Baker said. "When you see the faces of these young people once they have earned their GED or go to the workplace and see them taking pride in their work we know that the program is successful. In the last month we have had two youths complete the work and receive their GED and we have had two acquire permanent jobs."
Some of the comments from those attending the Jump Start classes prove that the program is successful.
"I feel WIA Jump Start classes have benefited me a whole lot. I have learned what kind of attitude I need to land the right job," Bracklet Jones.
"If it weren't for WIA, I would still be sitting at home doing bad instead of out working and getting my GED," Brandy Massey.
"I looked everywhere for a job. I didn't know what my kids Christmas was going to be like, now, since I'm being paid on the Work Experience program, I know they will have a wonderful Christmas this year. I can use the skills from this job to help me find another one," Christina Cook.
"WIA has assisted me because it is preparing me for the future, as far as doing Job Search -- filling out applications, knowing what to do and expect if I get called for an interview, knowing how to prepare myself ahead of time before the interview, etc." Tiffany Marshall.
Baker said they would like to expand throughout the area.
If we can get enough interest and applications, we would like to have classes in the Buffalo Island area. The office is located at 111 East Ash Street in Blytheville. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The toll free telephone number is 866-688-5365.
In addition to Baker, the other three career advisers in the Blytheville office are Anita Adams, Leslie Lewis and Teresa McDonald. Cozette Crawford serves as intake specialist.
Lori Malone Perfect and Sandra Sparks, both of Manila, serve as career advisers in the Jonesboro office that is located at 2920 McClellan Drive. The Jonesboro office's toll free number is 866-749-9675.