A group including representatives of public service agencies, activists and representatives from Lealman area manufacturers sat down Tuesday morning to discuss ways to get those companies what they need: employees.
The discussion was the first step in a program that Mike Mikurak and Dick Peck are bringing to Lealman.
Mikurak is a founder of Accenture, a global professional services company. Mikurak is also running against incumbent Charlie Justice for the Pinellas County Commission. He and Peck, of QTM Inc. in Oldsmar, started the program about a year ago. Since then, it has provided jobs for more than 179 people in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, they said.
Now, they want to bring the program to the unincorporated Lealman area.
“This is the kickoff of what we’re going to do in Lealman,” Mikurak said.
The concept is simple on its face: Connect people who want jobs with the companies that have job openings. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. The concept, Mikurak said, has taken the idea of the one-stop shop for job hunters and “flipped it on its head.”
“We take what everybody talks about, talks about, talks about and make a difference,” Mikurak said of the program, which has no name.
“We never named it,” he said. “It’s a job program. It’s a sustainable job program.”
The idea is to find companies that require employees but — for some reason — can’t find them. The next step is taking that list of needs to a network of resources pulled together by Peck and Mikurak. The network includes such groups as the Pinellas Ex-offender Re-entry Coalition and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The network helps find people who want jobs — including the homeless, disabled, and those with criminal backgrounds — in their search. The network supports the job applicant to get a resume together, learn how to interview and will help provide training geared at a particular job.
For example, if a company needs welders, the coalition will see there’s welding training available.
“I could not find skilled labor. I could not find unskilled labor,” Peck said. “We’ve got to go into other sources of people.”
The unincorporated Lealman area, located roughly between Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg, seemed ripe for expansion of the program because of its high level of unemployment — about 25 percent of the population, Mikurak said. But one of the problems is, many times, the person who needs the job has no transportation to find employment, much less get there once hired.
“Our problem is transportation,” Peck said. “Where the highest unemployment is and where the jobs are aren’t necessarily the same. There is a workforce there. They’re all around this community.”
One way around that lack of transportation is to target manufacturers who are located in Lealman. That not only takes away the transportation issue, but it also helps improve the community as the residents become more self-sufficient and work where they live, they said.
Longtime civic activist, Ray Neri, who heads up Lealman Community Redevelopment Area, said he’s pleased that Mikurak and Peck are expanding their program into the area.
“To develop a community and make it healthy, you’ve got to have jobs,” Neri told Mikurak and Peck. “We’ve got kid problems. We’ve got jobs problems. We’ve got prostitutes. It all seems to stem from a lack of money. Here you are, and we are thankful you came.”
The next step, Mikurak said, is to sit down with Lealman manufacturers who are interested in the program and find out what they need. The community, he said, needs to start getting the word out and finding the people who want to work.