WITH DEMAND for workers soaring, United Way leaders know unemployed Marylanders must be at or below the employment ladder's bottom rung.
This is particularly true in Howard County, where the unemployment rate has been under 2 percent. Everyone who wants a job has one -- or so it seems.
What to do, then, with a 35-year-old man or woman with no work experience, little education and poor personal hygiene?
United Way tackles the problem with a "work-force readiness" program that begins with modest goals:
Make an appointment with the Department of Social Services.
Actually go to the appointment.
Don't fight with the counselor.
Don't steal anything.
The United Way knows that hard cases need help from passionate advocates. But the advocates, in turn, need management skills.
Scarce dollars, a skeptical public and continuing need demand a searching process. So, the United Way's tough screening may not be for the faint-hearted.
First, a "Vision Cabinet" decides how the dollars will be spent. Applicant agencies fill out a 12-page form.
Then an "investment team" reviews the applications. Team members visit program sites, looking for evidence of beneficial efforts.
"Beneficial" means more than statistics. It means change in individuals or institutions.
In Howard this year, three of 24 applications for work-force development contracts requested by experienced agencies were denied.
Agencies that did get contracts will run the gantlet again in three years. Did the applicant with body odor get a job? How? What's he doing now?
The answers help to assure that United Way dollars are well spent -- and that the unemployed get on their feet and stay there.