With support from SCPa Works, the Perry County Literacy Council launched the Call Center of Perry County in Newport, a job-training and career services initiative, which will employ up to 25 people and help them improve their employment prospects.

“There’s a lot of support for something that’s going to employ Perry County people,” said Kathleen Bentley, executive director of the literacy council.

This innovative approach provides education and training for populations with barriers to employment. Matching improved skill sets and an entry level employment opportunity, getting workers into jobs while growing their confidence and employability.

The center’s first 10 workers will come from that group of people, she said. They’ll receive soft skills training as well as customer service training that will lead to credentials from the National Retail Federation.

“People who come here want to work,” she said. “They often have been in long-term poverty and they want out of that.”

Through grant funding obtained by SCPa Works, this project will train at least 25 workers by utilizing a blend of enhanced career services and work-based training to job seekers with barriers to employment. Piloting this model will help SCPa Works and the PA Department of Labor & Industry to identify the criteria needed for effectively serving our customers in rural, harder-to-serve areas.

SCPa Works has partnerships with other community-based organizations in its eight-county region to help the unemployed find jobs, but working with the literacy council brings new innovative opportunities, said Jesse McCree, the organization’s director of strategic initiatives.

No one program is a “silver bullet” for employment and poverty issues, McCree said. That’s why the literacy council’s comprehensive wrap-around education services are so important.

In south central Pennsylvania, roughly between 10,000 and 15,000 people are in need of additional training and education for better employment prospects, McCree said. “We’re always looking for innovative ways to serve this population.”

The goal is to prepare people for sustained employment and then help them get and keep jobs after they leave the call center, Bentley said. The project also will have funds to help workers with transportation to jobs.