Lifestyle

KCR’s WorkFirst programs see ‘unprecedented’ increase in clients

Kitsap Community Resources (KCR) WorkFirst clients search the Internet for job openings in KCR’s computer lab in Bremerton. WorkFirst programs have seen a large increase in the number of clients in recent months. - Rachel Brant/staff photo
Kitsap Community Resources (KCR) WorkFirst clients search the Internet for job openings in KCR’s computer lab in Bremerton. WorkFirst programs have seen a large increase in the number of clients in recent months.
— image credit: Rachel Brant/staff photo

With the unemployment rate in Kitsap County hitting 9.2 percent in April, more people are turning to the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and Kitsap Community Resources (KCR) for help.

KCR’s WorkFirst programs have seen “unprecedented” numbers of clients in recent months, according to KCR employment and training director Charmaine Scott.

“It all came with our country’s money problems,” she said.

Scott said one WorkFirst program currently has about 90 clients. This time last year, 60 clients was the norm.

People receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) must be referred to KCR’s WorkFirst programs by DSHS.

Scott said DSHS saw an increase in people asking for assistance in October and November last year. It then trickled down to KCR, which saw a “huge increase” in the number of clients in January.

Scott said WorkFirst clients work one-on-one with a case manager to assess their individual needs, with the eventual goal being to obtain unsubsidized employment. Clients then attend life skills training, enhanced job skills training or go straight to a job.

“It’s very individualized,” Scott said.

Scott said KCR strives to find WorkFirst clients jobs that are in demand and, currently, health care jobs are in demand in Kitsap County.

“Some of the jobs that were in demand a year ago aren’t in demand now because of the economy,” she said. “We are trying to look toward green jobs because that seems to be the way our country is going, so that’s something we’re looking into in our community here.”

Scott said KCR’s Bremerton office has two classrooms and a computer lab for WorkFirst training programs. She said many people use the computer lab to create resumes and search for jobs on the Internet.

“It was standing room only in March and April (in the computer lab),” she said.

Scott said about a third of WorkFirst’s clients have never needed assistance.

“It’s changed the makeup of the people we see,” Scott said. “We have had a good number of people who were Realtors, mortgage lenders, bankers and now their banks or offices are closed.”

KCR offers the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult Employment program to all job seekers, not just TANF recipients. WIA Adult Employment services include employment counseling, career assessments and job referrals.

Scott said despite the economy, KCR continues to place people in jobs around the county.

“We are still placing people at a reasonable rate,” she said. “There are still jobs out there.”

For more information about KCR and its employment and training services, visit www.kcr.org.

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