DSS work study program may help jobless in county

Bad economies and tight budgets might actually be good things for Joe Bacote's programs.

Bacote is trying to join two facts together through his programs to make a mutual solution.

The two facts are that, one: businesses might be shorthanded with employee layoffs but still have the same amount of work to be done. Two, there are people willing to work temporarily just to learn or improve their job skills to make them more marketable as an employee later.

The S.C. Department of Social Services has two types of work studies exist for people who haven't attended college.
Bacote is a job developer for the S.C. Department of Social Services.

College students know a form of Bacote's programs as "work studies."

But one doesn't have to be a college student to benefit from a work-study related program.

Work studies - whether for college students or not - allow participants to learn work-related skills at actual job sites while building a job resumé and job references.

With the recent downturn of the economy and the closing of two Barnwell County plants - Milliken and Hanesbrands - by mid-year, Bacote sees his agency getting busier as 2009 progresses, he said.

"We are seeing more walk-ins coming in requesting services. After awhile, we will probably start seeing request from these people (former Milliken and Hanesbrands employees) for food stamps, etc.," he said.

Bacote would also like to make his programs busier that deal with work experience and on-the-job training, he said.

Right now, Bacote has 30 to 40 people he could place in a work situation in Barnwell County. Currently only about 10 businesses in the county are participating in the programs, placing his clients, he said.

Through the work experience program, DSS pays the employee, who works temporarily at a hosting client business.
The benefits are multidimensional for worker and business.
For workers, they gain work experience and skills within the 90-day period of the work program while working between 20 to 40 hours a week, Bacote said.

"This is for people who don't have a solid background who need some job history," he said.

For its participation, businesses get a temporary worker without having to pay them. It also lets the business evaluate the potential worker in case a permanent position opens up, Bacote said.

Businesses are not under an obligation to hire the DSS job program participant permanently. The program specifies that it cannot displace a current worker with a DSS job program client.
Also the state covers worker's compensation and tort liability insurance for both the work experience and on-the-job training programs so the business will not have to, he said.

The differences between the work experience program and the on-the-job training program is that with on-the-job training, DSS pays half the worker's wages and the business picks up the other half. Also through on-the-job training, the hosting business agrees to hire the job client at the end of the training period.
Businesses that hire a DSS job program participant as one of their own employees can gain a host of state and federal tax credits in the process.

"These tax credits come into play when a person is hired," Bacote said.

All DSS participants in these two program first pass through the agency's job readiness program, Bacote said.

Job readiness is a program is a basic course where people learn the proper etiquette in the business world, particularly concerning job hunting, he said.

Basic skills covered include how to create a job resumé, how to search for and ask about job positions and similar protocols, he said.

"Some people never picked these skills up at high school or college," Bacote said. "Some people that come in and they don't need to go through job readiness because they already know these skills."