SAN FRANCISCO—Mayor Edwin Lee announced on February 28, the Platform to Employment (P2E), a new pilot workforce program aimed to provide unemployed workers the opportunity for long-term work employment. San Francisco contains more than 4,200 residents who are losing Federal unemployment benefits that are used for everyday expenses, according to a press released from the Mayor’s website.

The program consists of three tiers of assistance that include: job readiness workshops, counseling and behavioral health services and eight weeks of work experience at a local business.

The P2E program is a public-private partnership between the City and County of San Francisco, the WorkPlace, Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), Family Services Agency of San Francisco, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco, and the California Employment Development Department. Funding for the program is provided by grants from AARP Foundation, Citi Community Development, and the Walmart Foundation.

“We know that the power of hope is essential to the creation of great things. Today there are 3.9 million Americans who are long-term unemployed,” said The WorkPlace President & CEO Joe Carbone. “Platform to Employment is the only project of its kind to place participants in jobs.  We look forward to introducing the program to San Francisco with the support of our partners.”

“At a time when thousands of people are losing their Federal unemployment extension benefits in our City, Platform to Employment helps the long-term unemployed get back on track,” said Mayor Lee. “Platform to Employment will help the long-term unemployed overcome challenges by providing new job search skills, access to financial counseling, and an opportunity to re-enter the workforce.”

“Platform to Employment offers a real solution to the crisis of long-term unemployment, offering hope and a pathway to meaningful and lasting employment to those hardest hit by the recession, and enabling unemployed San Franciscans to return to the workforce with confidence and dignity,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Too many Americans are still struggling to find a job and make ends meet—a situation that has been exacerbated by congressional Republicans’ refusal to extend the emergency unemployment insurance that so many rely on to support their families and pay their bills as they search for work.”

The Federal unemployment extension expired on December 28, 2013, and Congress did not come to an agreement to pass a three-month extension of unemployment benefits which are used for the long-term unemployed to pay for everyday expenses. As of January 2014, more than 262,000 individuals in California have lost Federal unemployment insurance extension benefits. The P2E pilot program has been initiated in several other cities across the country including San Diego, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago. The program has placed more than 80 percent of its participants into work experience programs, with 90 percent gaining full-time employment.

The city of San Francisco currently has 18 participants in the P2E pilot program, with approximately 48 percent of the participants being unemployed for more than two years. The program places individuals into a mandatory five week series of job readiness that includes strategies to find jobs, resume writing, self-marketing, rebuilding confidence, and worker support programs. Participants will also receive financial counseling and credit rebuilding assistance which are vital components of the P2E program.

“One thing that I have faced is the feeling that you get, that you are stale, that you will never get a job. I am 60 years old and I have tremendous skill,” said P2E participant George Koster. “I have worked in temporary jobs that were a bridge to nowhere and P2E is a bridge to reinvent myself. Their approach is holistic – dealing with the psychological part and the financial part and helping people combat their personal dialogue that tells them they are not a failure.”

Results from the P2E pilot program will be evaluated and if seen to work in the city of San Francisco, the program will become an essential service offered through the Office of Economics and Workforce Development (OEWD).

By LaDale Anderson