AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Two months after its kickoff, a program here in Maine referred to as a "welfare-to-work program" is receiving high marks.
It puts Mainers to work through skills training, inspiring and requiring those without jobs to become members of the workforce.
"Last year I had the mother of my child pass away due to a tragic car accident," said Jibryne Karter. "It was the day before Christmas Eve, and honestly, I was going through a really hard time."
Karter, a college graduate with a master's degree in education, plunged into a deep depression.
"I think I lost that feeling that I could persevere and that courage to really get out there," he said.
He was suddenly a single dad to a 7-year-old daughter and had no job. They survived on state assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
"When I came here it was like, 'OK, I'm having a class directly on how to get a job and get the job I really want to get.'"
These days, Karter is a new man, looking ahead to working and on Wednesday, sharing his story with state Department of Health & Human Services commissioner Mary Mayhew inside Fedcap, which has helped him get his life back on track.
Inside one of the Fedcap classrooms, case managers work with individuals on their skills, like writing cover letters for job applications. One case manager methodically working alongside one of the participants at the computer.
"I am semi-retired, not looking for many hours, I have experience in landscaping," said one person. Caseworkers work with each of them to become employer ready job seekers.
"They do a vocational assessment which determines their skills, what their interests are," said Chad Leighton, who runs the Augusta Fedcap program "Breaking the Cycle," aimed at doing just that to poverty through independence and success.
"Ultimately, the pathway is employment and that's the path we want to lead them down. We have a whole great staff here to help everyone."
So far, DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew likes what she sees. To her, every Mainer who is able to get a job and off of state assistance helps to loosen money reserves for others who need help. But, she underscores, it is about a lot more than money.
"What it means is that we know that their life will be better when they are on this pathway that when you have that job it isn't just about the income, though that is critically important, it is about that sense of self-esteem, self-worth and human dignity," she said.
And the change shows all over JKarter's face. The recently jobless dad is now fielding a handful of computer and IT job offers. "The jobs that I am getting offered are really exciting. I never thought that I could get $25 an hour for a job offer, $30 an hour which was another one so that is really fantastic."
The training has given him the drive to reach higher and, he believes, will have a ripple effect on his daughter. "If you can change your mindset to a positive mindset, a can-do mindset and stay positive that will influence your children or your child that you have, your family, and they will also benefit from that as well."
So far, 60 people who have gone through the Augusta program have successfully landed jobs. The number is even higher around the state. If you would like to connect with the Fedcap program, check out their website at fedcap.org.