Westport creates pilot program to help residents find jobs

WESTPORT — The Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce gets a call every two weeks from someone looking for help with their job search.

That’s why Matthew Mandell, executive director of the chamber and member of the District 1 Municipal Assembly of Representatives, is eager to support a new municipal program offering employment assistance.

“It’s a no-brainer for our support,” Mandell said.

Like the Chamber, the city’s Department of Social Services has seen a “significant increase” in the number of residents seeking help finding jobs because they are either unemployed or underemployed. It’s a problem that has grown since the pandemic hit, causing them to either lose their jobs or force them to cobble together multiple jobs to cope with the rising cost of living, officials said at the meeting. GTR this week.

This is the driving force behind a pilot program that aims to provide employment resources and remove certain barriers to obtaining employment. It will be housed at Westport Library, but run in conjunction with the Department of Social Services.

“(Human Services) has the clientele, the library has the resources,” said District 4 RTM member James Bairaktaris. “It’s a good game.”

Social Services Director Elaine Daignault said the program was especially needed after COVID.

“Many people had lost their full-time or part-time income,” Daignault said, adding that seniors on fixed incomes may need part-time employment to help cover their growing living expenses.

The unemployment rate in Westport was around 2.8% in April, compared to an average of 3.8% in Fairfield County, according to the application submitted to the RTM for the new job search assistance program .

The report states, “These data, combined with the number of residents eligible for local, state, and federal financial assistance programs, represent a large majority of underemployed and unemployed social service clients who have been affected by COVID19.

According to the report, many residents, regardless of their socio-economic status, are looking for help to get better, better-paying jobs to better support their households.

The RTM unanimously approved $25,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money to cover the program on Tuesday, the majority of which will fund the part-time career coach who will work with those who use it.

Each person will begin the process with a needs assessment to determine what services they would benefit from.

Some of the services offered include CV assistance, skills building, networking, interview practice, and creating or improving a LinkedIn account.

Melanie Myers, the library’s chief of staff, said the library is well placed to partner with the program’s social services, given its physical location, available computers and private meeting space. Officials added that some of the people who would use this program were already visiting the library.

She said feeling isolated is one of the challenges of finding a job, and the library provides a sense of community that can combat that. This program will not only connect job seekers with the career coach, but also library patrons and others using the job search assistance program.

“There’s no question the huge need for a program of this nature in our community, so we really appreciate your support for this,” Myers said.

Daignault said this new program will fill a void since there were previously job resources offered with a career bus, a fixed program at the library and one with Goodwill.

“Today we have none of that,” she said.

Daignault said it also complements the city’s new initiative, Jobs for All, which encourages businesses to hire people with disabilities and supports workers seeking employment or advancing in their careers.

The Library and Social Services will track the metrics to determine how often the program is used and whether it is worth budgeting as a more permanent program.

And although the program is hosted in Westport and intended for Westport residents, anyone living in Connecticut can use it, officials said.

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