By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
Four weeks ago, Kristina Osborne was frustrated, jobless and ready to give up on her dreams. Now, after the completing the Job Readiness Pilot Program, the 28-year-old is excited about her future.
“I’d almost been without a job for a year now. I was so frustrated that I had to take this class,” Osborne said. “Once I started, I felt like doors that I thought were closed for me were now being opened again.”
Osborne, an Amsterdam resident, was one of 14 individuals who started the four-week program on July 10. On Friday, she was one of four recognized for completing the entire course during a ceremony at Montgomery County’s Department of Social Services (DSS) Satellite Office in the Riverfront Center.
Of the 14, eight individuals found employment by either securing a job during their participation in the program or will now begin working. Two of the participants who found jobs during the program were also recognized at the ceremony. The four individuals who completed the entire program have been promised positions at Home Helpers.
The Job Readiness Pilot Program was a collaboration between the DSS and Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The participants, who are all DSS recipients, were asked if they would like to take part in the pilot program. Some things taught were interview skills, how to build a resume and budget finances.
DSS Commissioner Michael McMahon said the idea started after talking to employers and realizing they were having difficulty filling jobs.
“I think as you saw today, the participants are very happy,” he said. “They seem to have had an experience that has been very positive for them. I think getting a job is a huge change for somebody’s life. I would hope as commissioner, that it doesn’t just lead to part-time jobs, but it leads to careers.”
Instructor of the course Heather A. Loucks said the participants were resistant at the beginning, but eventually they were asking to stay longer than the 9 a.m. until noon class time.
“My big thing is to help people get back to their best,” she said. “To know who they are and know what they’re good at and what they’re best at.”
Several “content experts” came in to assist teaching different aspects of the course.
Ellie Fosmire, who is the academic success coordinator at F-MCC, taught budgeting.
“I help students to reach their goals,” Fosmire said.
She explained how she related to the individuals’ struggles, stating that when she was about 30, her husband lost his job and they had three small kids to care for.
“I really could relate to the struggles that they are going through and let them know there are blue skies on the other side,” she said.
Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said there was a need in the business community for a program like this.
“In a partnership with F-MCC, we’ve created this program to provide some skills and some career readiness for those who need it and hopefully place them in a job,” he said. “We wanted to start out with a pilot program to see if this could be successful and from the looks of how it went, it was very successful and from here moving forward we are going to have to sit down and look at what worked, what didn’t, suggest some improvements and hopefully continue this type of program into the future.
“The need is there in the business community and clearly any person we take off of services and into employment is obviously a savings for the county. This is a classic win-win.”
Osborne’s goal is to become a drug and alcohol counselor. During the program, she said the instructors did not want them to just accept any job where they could end up miserable and unhappy.
“It was more of, let’s help you get into the career that you want to do and better your life for your family,” she said.
Osborne said Loucks was “amazing” and always came into class with nothing but positive energy. She even taught Osborne a simple handshake for an interview, which ended up leaving a memorable impression on the employer. Osborne said she learned how to walk into an interview the right way, answer the questions and never give up on her dreams.
“Now I have all these opportunities opening up and they were showing me that I still can do it. It wasn’t just about a job, it was more about my career,” she said. “I’m so determined. They gave me the will to want to go do and pursue my dreams and I want a better life for my kids. I love helping people and I’m so excited to get my foot in the door and begin my career.”
Osborne is hopeful this program will continue and she plans to recommend it to others who may have been in a similar position.
“I would 100 percent recommend this,” she said. “I gave up on even trying to be the counselor that I wanted to be. I gave up on that because I was so discouraged by so many things that happened in my life, so many downfalls. But this showed me that there is still hope. You don’t have to give up. I feel like this class is perfect to get everyone back on the right track to get a career and get a job in that career that they want to do.”