2016 Symposium on Poverty & Opportunity Focuses on Local Jobs

The 4th annual Symposium on Poverty and Opportunity, held on October 14, at Indian River State College’s Vero Beach campus, focused on how local nonprofit workforce development programs and supporting local businesses can create an empowered workforce and job opportunities to impact poverty in Indian River County.

The purpose of the symposium, hosted by United Against Poverty of Indian River County, was to provide an educational experience and motivation to take action for local officials, nonprofit leadership and community-minded citizens.

Guest speakers Helene Caseltine, Economic Development Director for the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce, and Indian River County Commissioner Peter O’Bryan, discussed the role of local economic development initiatives to grow local jobs, Ridge Schuyler of Charlottesville Works presented a successful workforce development program based in Charlottesville, VA and numerous local programs were also presented.

“We want to be sure that site consultant specialists know that our community is ‘open for business’,” explained Caseltine. “The county and all cities within its boundaries are committed to an open door, red carpet treatment to those that are considering Indian River County as a site to locate or expand their business.”

Workforce development programs provided by three nonprofit organizations were highlighted including The Source’s “Dining with Dignity” Kitchen Program, the Veteran’s Council of Indian River County’s Veteran/Employer Workshops and United Against Poverty’s Success Training for Employment Program (STEP). Each program works with local employers to identify workforce needs and is integrated with other area nonprofit organizations as part of a critical continuum of services.

“STEP is focused on adults with multiple barriers to employment,” explained STEP Facilitator Canieria Gardner. “We first provide crisis stabilization services and then 8-weeks of classroom training that includes development of emotional intelligence skills such as goal setting, conflict resolution and team building. Our goal is to provide employers with employees that are workforce ready and employees with the skills to maintain a job and progress in their employment toward economic self sufficiency.”

Ridge Schuyler, Director of Charlottesville Works presented a working example of a successful workforce development program that is putting people to work in Charlottesville, VA.“We are harnessing what we have and creating what we don’t,” explained Schuyler.

“We do this by aligning resource specialists behind a job seeker, providing assistance with job retention, financial literacy and career advancement for 12 months. And assuring employers that job seekers are truly ready for work,” explained Schuyler.

Robertson closed the symposium with a call to action to join the “Spend Local, Grow Local Jobs” movement based on the philosophy that charity begins at home. “Supporting local businesses is a simple act that can have a huge impact in growing the opportunities for employment in our community,” explained Robertson. “The next time that you are tempted to go online for something to save a couple of dollars, consider spending that money locally instead. It might be a little more, but it can have a huge impact on helping to create local jobs.”

Local businesses, cultural organizations and interested parties are invited to Join United Against Poverty and the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce for a Buy Local, Grow Local Jobs planning workshop on November 8, from 1:30-3:00 p.m. at the UP Center, located at 2746 US Highway 1 in Vero Beach.

To learn more, contact Annabel Robertson at United Against Poverty at 772-770-0740.