Local News

Work First Programs Help Many Make the Transition from Welfare to Work

Posted June 12, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— People who used to be on welfare are turning into good employees for local companies.Wake County's Work Firstprogram is helping them achieve success.

Rhonda Spencer is a single mother on welfare who has tried several times to land a good job.

"You would go to four or five different jobs and you would turn around at the end and sometimes they just didn't hire you," she says.

Now Spencer is enrolled at the Learning Curve Plus in Cary. She is hoping to learn the skills she needs to make it on her own.

"I want a job that I can say that I have medical benefits like everybody else does, and can work towards helping my children when they go to school," she says.

Spencer is just one of hundreds of welfare recipients in Wake County making the transition from welfare to work thanks to Work First programs.

The Learning Curve Plus offers a two-month, specialized curriculum in medical, legal and administrative fields.

All programs include computer training and what the director calls "soft skills" needed to succeed in the working world.

"Learning how not to talk back to your supervisor, learning how to deal with it if you have a legitimate issue to address, something that's not going right. Learning how to dress appropriately," says director Geiselle Thompson.

When students finish their training, they get a certificate and help with interviewing and job hunting skills. They also get a sense of accomplishment and a new outlook on life.

"It's really going to be nice, because I can depend on a certain amount of money. I can pay my bills, I can provide for my child what she needs," says Spencer.

The Learning Curve Plus says 95 percent of Work First students who finish its program are successful at their jobs.

In the past five years, the welfare rolls in Wake County have dropped by more than half.