NAPLES, Fla - A program in Southwest Florida is using your tax dollars to get the unemployed back to work.
Southwest Florida Works pays businesses to train and hire new employees. The on the job training program has been around for about five years, but Beth Barger at Southwest Florida Works says it's a hidden gem because not enough businesses are taking advantage of it.
Korchmar is a leather specialty company that has been around for 95 years. They manufacture their own line of luggage and just recently moved to Naples, but finding skilled workers has been a challenge.
Vice President Beverly Bissett says, "it's been very difficult. There are very few skilled workers, skilled sewers. There are many home sewers, but it's a whole different ball game when you get on an industrial machine."
So, Bissett turned to Southwest Florida Works. "The process was pretty easy. They had a group for us to interview, we interviewed them and picked some to bring in. They helped pay their salary while we trained and we found some very good people there."
The training program is funded through the Workforce Investment Act and allows Southwest Florida Works to spend up to $6,500 on each employee.
"We're taking people who have little or no skills in that area and literally putting them on the job and training them," says Barger.
Korchmar trained four new employees while Southwest Florida Works paid up to 90 percent of their salary. Then, after six months two of the four were hired full time. It's a program that not only helps get people back to work, but helps small businesses expand at little to no cost.
"It's been good for us, it's a slow start up and you have to be patient with it, but you can find some good people. There's a lot of people out of work for no fault of their own," says Bissett.
Southwest Florida Works also offers a paid internship program for anyone who wants to learn more about a specific industry. The intern gets paid up to $500 plus training and hopefully a full time job when it's over.