Employers pitched on Opportunity Now

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LAPLACE — Opportunity Now is a collaborative that creates partnerships with federal, state and community based organizations to link employers and employees, and Thursday there was an Employer Summit in LaPlace.

The second chance program gives people access to programs designed to improve their overall quality of life, including job training and job placement services, youth empowerment programs, general education development classes, job readiness and life skills classes and more.

The summit’s purpose was to provide employers with information about the different benefits they will receive if they employ someone who has difficulty transitioning to the workforce, like individuals with disabilities, veterans, ex-offenders and at- risk youths.

Employers were told about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which is a Federal tax credit that employers receive if they hire veterans and also individuals from other eligible target groups with significant barriers to employment.

According to information provided by the National Guard, WOTC reduces an employer’s cost of doing business and reduces an employer’s federal income tax liability as much as $9,600 per veteran hired.

“At the National Guard, we are proud of our service members and their families,” Major Ebony Carter said.

Carter encourages employers to give veterans a chance.

“They are trainable and they are coachable,” he said. “They come with various skill sets and education and can be a huge asset to a company.”

Louisianan Rehabilitation Service Director Mark Martin explained his program provides trained individuals who can come to work and do their job.

“Louisiana Rehabilitation Service has been labeled as one of the best kept secrets in Louisiana,” Martin said. “We are here to help you find the next great employee. Our sole existence is to assist individuals with disabilities in their attempts to achieve employment. We do a wonderful job of training and preparing individuals for jobs that exist.”

Employers who participate in the Louisiana Rehabilitation Service on-the-job training receive reimbursement for the trainee’s salary for up to three months, support services like uniforms and tools and job-site assessment. The program is part of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, and the service is free.

While employers heard from different groups about why they should hire Opportunity Now clients, people with disabilities and veterans, they also heard from Seth Bougreois, who provided an employer’s perspective.

Bourgeois works with Acadia LLC.

Bourgeois first heard about the Opportunity Now through his brother-in-law, who was involved in the program and introduced him to the director Joe Lewis.

“This program is something that’s needed,” Bourgeois said. “Anything that we can do to try and get some of these guys back into the workforce and try to train them a little bit is always a good thing.”

Bourgeois said employers are always “looking at the bottom line.”

“I get three months that is paid back to me, in other words if I pay someone a certain amount of money, this program pays it right back to me,” Bourgeois said. “I have a no-loss situation. I’m getting paid for training these guys; we are putting these guys through for three months. If they work out, I’ve got a good employee.

“Give it a shot. You don’t have to go with six or seven people; you can start with one person. I was pleasantly surprised with the lack of bureaucracy I had to go through. Give one employee a shot.”