CareerSource Polk is offering a wide range of programs to help adults gain skills that make them more marketable in today’s workplace and to assist businesses re-train and retain employees. 

Chrissanne Long, CEO of Maximize Digital Media, recently learned of the programs, which she said every small business owner should consider. “We have had great success with both the On-the-Job Training and Operation Recovery 2020 programs, employing one person through each.”

Long said it’s hard for small business owners to find the time to examine such programs and get information on them, but CareerSource Polk made it so easy that she’s working on a promotional video with the agency.

Candace Franklin, community outreach coordinator for CareerSource Polk, said these programs help more than businesses — they also help individuals. “There are a lot of people eager to get back to work. They just need some guidance on where those opportunities are. With on-the-job training, employers help participants get the skills needed. We work aggressively to partner individuals with businesses through many of our programs.”

Programs like Operation Recovery 2020 and On-the-Job Training grant help businesses during disruptive changes like the pandemic, leading to resiliency as companies hire and train employees. 

On the Job Training Grant 

The OJT program reimburses an employer up to 75% of an employee’s wages (temporarily increased to 90% due to the pandemic) for companies with fewer than 250 employees and 50% for those with 250 or more so a new employee can learn new skills. The employee must complete an assessment and qualify for at least 160 to 520 approved training hours. 

“Once the business identifies the position, they will receive guidance on how many hours of training are needed,” Franklin said. 

Long knew who she wanted to hire to fill her digital media coordinator position, so she contacted CareerSource Polk because the employee, a recent college graduate who worked on Southeastern University’s video production team, lacked some of the skills needed. The employee was approved for 520 hours training and is now learning “basics and intermediate skills to manage and update WordPress websites” that Maximize Digital Media oversees.

As part of the program, employees must be paid at least $11 an hour. The maximum reimbursement is $20.11 an hour.

Operation Recovery 2020

CareerSource Polk, the non-profit corporation that oversees state and federal funds dedicated to preparing and upgrading a skilled workforce, has also extended the Operation Recovery 2020 program it started last year to help those recently laid off or furloughed return to the workforce. The program ends June 30 or when funds are depleted.

Long hired a gentleman with an impressive resume as a technical administrative assistant, she said. He had to resign after a short time, but the experience was so positive she will apply to the program again to find his replacement, who can work up to 40 hours a week for a maximum of 24 weeks.

The program had been covering wages at $20 an hour but now works with employers to set a wage up to $20. If requested, the program also covers drug and background tests. 

Jobs available under the Operation Recovery 2020 program can be found at www.EmployFlorida.com with the keyword OR2020. Applicants applying for jobs must register with Employ Florida, of which CareerSource Polk can assist. Positions available include child care workers, administrative assistants, warehouse staff and laborers.

“Our hope is that job seekers will be able to establish permanent employment,” Franklin said, leading businesses to resiliency. “The world has been impacted by the pandemic. For some, it pulled the rug right out from under them. We believe in the importance of a strong and thriving community. We want to help create an environment where businesses can still be successful and we can help them offset the impacts of the pandemic as they recover.”

The Programs’ Importance

For small business owners especially, programs like this are “incredibly important,” said Long, who learned about them while on a weekly call the Central Florida Development Council was hosting to share information on COVID-19. As Careersource Polk President Stacy Campbell-Domineck was speaking on the call, Long was contacting her to ask: “Are these programs for people like me, super small businesses?”

The answer was yes. George Wilson and Kathy Suttles of the agency’s Business Services Division guided Long through the process, she said, telling her “what I need, what I’m trying to figure out and what program her (new employees) fit into.” 

“As a small business, it can be overwhelming; we can’t take time to figure things out,” Long said, saying some owners may think it’s too risky or feel vulnerable. But she knew she needed help and getting a lead on “free employees” was enticing. “Even a little business like me — I was able to get and take advantage of these opportunities.”

Now, she’s sharing the information and hopes others will also. “Tell your business friends. This is legitimately available to us. We need to take advantage of it to help our businesses thrive during these challenging times.”