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New program helps employers train job seekers

Staff report
CONCORD — In an effort to pare down unemployment rolls, a new state program is making it easier for employers to find and train job candidates for up to six weeks before deciding whether to hire that person, at no cost to the business.
Opportunity North Carolina is a pilot program now in six counties, including Cabarrus. The Employment Security Commission launched the effort in March and publicly unveiled it Monday at Racing Electronics, a business on Derita Road.
“We are excited to present such a creative opportunity for employers and those looking for work in Cabarrus County,” Employment Security Commission Chairman Lynn R. Holmes said in a press release. “In the pilot phase, it has shown us that it provides employers and unemployed job seekers a great way to learn about each other.”
It also allows job seekers to get new skills and be “fully prepared for the first day on the job, should they be hired by the training employer,” Holmes said.
Under the program — which is also now in Alamance, Buncombe, Durham, Nash and Scotland counties — employers with job openings agree to train a program participant for up to six weeks. The employer pays nothing. Instead, the Employment Security Commission continues paying benefits to the job seeker and $100 weekly to help offset travel and training costs.
The only requirements for program participants are that they are currently on unemployment and have at least six weeks of eligibility remaining, Employment Security Commission spokesman Larry Parker said. They volunteer through an Employment Security Commission office in their county.
At any point during the training period, the employer can decide to hire the person or end the agreement.
This “extended job interview,” as information provided by the state agency calls it, gives employers and potential employees confidence.
Parker said it’s a good way to match employers with job seekers who don’t exactly fit their search criteria but might be a good match. Racing Electronics has hired three people through the program and is training two more, he said.
“Some of those things, you’ve got people with similar skills, but they’ve never been in that position, so you think they can do the job, but you don’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt employers to give it a try.”
It’s not clear when or if the program will come to Rowan County. The state agency has money to expand Opportunity North Carolina but has not yet made plans to do so, Parker said.
“We’re kind of in the infancy of this pilot program, so we want to give it some time before deciding where to expand it and when,” he said.
For more information about the Opportunity North Carolina program in Cabarrus County, check with the local Employment Security Commission office at 2275 U.S. 29-A or call the office at 704-786-3183.

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