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Network2Work: A Novel Approach to Employment Gets $1.35 Million Donation

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The unemployment rate in Virginia is low, but in some places people still can’t make enough money to get by. That’s why the community college in Charlottesville  is launching a new program that depends on the neighborhood busy body to match would-be workers with jobs that pay well.

At Piedmont Virginia Community College, Dean  Ridge Schuyler sees plenty of potential – people who could be great employees, and he knows that employers are in need, so he’s crafted a program called Network2Work that pairs those two groups in a novel way.

“We’ve built a political-style ground game of neighborhood-based peers who get job information from our network, and they stop and think, ‘Who do I know that would be good at that job?’” he explains.

With a grant of $1.35 million, Schuyler plans to increase the army of neighborhood volunteers who will not only match the people they know with jobs but encourage those who should be in training.

“Somebody who knows them needs to grab them by the lapels and say, ‘You took care of your grandmother when she was sick. You ought to pursue a career in nursing!'" Schuyler says. "That is what propels people forward.’”

Of course Schuyler sees other problems for the working poor in Charlottesville – beginning with a lack of affordable housing, but getting jobs that pay more than minimum wage should help.

“If you work full-time at minimum wage you make $14,400 a year," he says. "Right now market rate for a 2-bedroom apartment is over $15,000.”

And the program will help candidates find reliable transportation, childcare and other social services. He estimates 12,000 families are in need of support and hopes the program will help at least 500 a year.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.