CMCA to hand off workforce program

A federal program designed to partner adults, displaced workers and youths with employers in Callaway County and Mid-Missouri will change hands from the local Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) to northeast Missouri-based Gamm Incorporated in July.

CMCA Executive Director Darin Preis said local implementations of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) had been coordinated by CMCA for two decades.

The WIA is a program designed to allow state and local officials to establish programs using federal funds to allow adults, workers dislocated by layoffs or youths to develop job skills and find work.

However, the Central Region Workforce Investment Board — the group in charge of oversight of the program in Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Camden, Cole, Cooper, Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Howard, Laclede, Maries, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties — elected to contract Gamm over CMCA to implement WIA programs for adults.

“They sent us a letter giving us the news, and said we weren’t competitive and that we were applying for the same things that we’d already been doing,” Preis said. “We had the program just shy of 20 years and it went out for bid again this year, and we were not awarded the contract.”

The Central Region Workforce Investment Board could not be reached for comment.

Helping Missourians find jobs

Preis said CMCA headed WIA programming since the early ’90s, and in that time they developed job skills and found job placement for thousands of Missourians. They also worked with employers to subsidize on-the-job training programs and better understand the skills and traits employers looked for.

He noted that despite the loss of federal funding, CMCA will continue Missouri Work Assistance (MWA), a program that focuses on job skills for people using state welfare.

“CMCA is still working to move people out of poverty and still operates a lot of programs and services including Head Start and Section 8 Housing,” he said. “We’re still very much in business, because the needs are higher than they’ve ever been. We might see the unemployment rate going down, but the scary thing is wages are also depressed, so people might be going back to jobs but their average income is lower.”

Local services

The adult service portions of WIA, which includes outreach specifically tailored to workers affected by closings and layoffs, will be taken over in July by Gamm Incorporated, a LaBelle-based organization dedicated to enhancing “the employability of its customers so that they are able to acquire and maintain long-term, high wage employment,” according to its website, gamminc.org.

Gamm served 15 northeast Missouri counties before acquiring the contract from the Workforce Investment Board. The youth portions of the WIA programs in Central Missouri, which help young people ages 14-21 in developing job and leadership skills to find employment over the summer or after graduation, will be taken over by Accelerating Opportunity, a separate organization.

Gamm Executive Director Patti Meldrum said her organization was excited about the increase of their coverage area.

“We’re always looking for ways to expand our services, and with the Moberly Career Center closing (in April), we thought that would be a good fit for us to move farther south,” Meldrum said.

Meldrum said the organization would be hiring 10 local staff — five in Columbia, four in Jefferson City and one in Mexico — to handle the estimated caseload of 75-100 workers in the central Missouri area. They will also absorb and honor all existing cases and contracts with workers and employees.

‘It’s getting harder and harder’

Preis noted there was no bad blood between CMCA and Gamm and that they would work together to make the transition go as smoothly as possible. He noted that, though CMCA is still dedicated to poverty outreach, the decision would affect the job security of about 23 of his employees who were paid partially with WIA and MWA funds. Of those employees, many would have to have their hours cut to part time to work exclusively with the MWA program, or be laid off entirely.

“All of this of course has the backdrop of federal sequestration,” Preis said. “It’s getting harder and harder to operate these programs designed to keep communities stable. I struggle to understand how Congress could let something like sequestration go through.

“It’s completely thoughtless, mindless cuts. Instead of focusing on the areas where they’re maybe not seeing outcomes or the program isn’t working, these programs got cut just the same as various effective, research-based proven programs.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the Workforce Investment Act in Mid-Missouri can call Gamm’s central office at 660-213-3221 or 800-866-9021.

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