JobLink program pays workers to learn on the job

  • Energuy employee Alex Wignall with his duct blast kit at his home on Thursday, July 11, 2013 in Santa Rosa, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Alex Wignall was looking for a career change when he came across a job posting on Craigslist.

A company called "Energuy" was looking to hire workers to evaluate the energy efficiency of appliances like air conditioners in homes.

What Wignall didn't know was that Energuy, a Canadian company with offices in the United States, had specifically sought out new hires in Sonoma County to take advantage of federal funds for training through Sonoma County JobLink.

Through that program, JobLink pays half of the salary of new hires that companies agree to train on-the-job.

"This is the first job that really has career potential for me, so I'm excited," said Wignall, 25, of Santa Rosa. "And a lot of people aren't working right now. It's hard to find work, so I'm grateful that JobLink was able to help me out."

JobLink began the program, known as "subsidized employment," in March. So far, 20 new hires have been placed in companies throughout the county, said Steve Czegus, manager of Sonoma County JobLink, which provides job placement and guidance services.

"It's taken off. It's done really well," Czegus said. "The type of companies that we have are a fairly wide range ... We have insurance wholesalers, textile processors, drivers, administrative assistants, shop supervisors, interior design and sales, and laborers. There's a good range of jobs and industries that people are going into."

The program is funded through the Workforce Investment Act, which makes federal money from the U.S. Department of Labor available to local groups for employment assistance. JobLink received about $624,000 to spend on training during the current fiscal year, which ends in June. It plans to spend about half of those funds on the subsidized employment program, Czegus said.

JobLink pays half of the new employee's salary for up to six months. Wages for those placed so far range from about $12 to $24 an hour, Czegus said.

"More of our job seekers were interested in getting actual employment than pursuing vocational training programs," Czegus said.

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