OSWEGO — The Inspire Center, the city of Oswego’s latest workforce development program, will open its doors today to residents looking to find employment that suits their needs and skill sets.  

The new initiative will operate out of the city’s Section Eight Rental Assistance Office — located at 159 Liberty St. — and will provide residents with access to computers and guidance toward education opportunities, according to County Legislator Nathan Emmons, R-Oswego, who will oversee the program.

“The center is geared toward those individuals who are on the rental assistance program,” Emmons said, noting 450 families in Oswego currently receive some form of rental assistance. “It is designed to assist those who are interested in achieving self-sufficiency through work and finding employment.”

The project was funded through a $40,000 allocation made to the 2019 city operating budget and approved by the Oswego Common Council.

The goal is for residents who use the Inspire Center to eventually improve their quality of life and financial condition through bettering their job searching and job interviewing skills and helping them identify the required education to find employment that will suit their needs, according to Emmons.

There are currently 25 families enlisted the social program and Emmons said he has already met with them to set long-term goals. 

“I’ve met with them one-on-one and we assessed where they are going to be in five years,” he added. “Our goal is to see how can we help them to move toward where they want to be within those five years.” 

Port City Mayor Billy Barlow praised the program, noting providing a path to self-sufficiency should be “the ultimate goal” of government social services.

“Our workforce development center will allow us to form a personal relationship with our clients and guide them through the job search process, interview process, and stay in touch with them to make sure their performance is sufficient and they hold a job they get,” he said.

Barlow added government should help combat “complex issues” such as poverty by aiding in a way residents don't “become dependent.”

“Often government thinks they are helping people by offering the immediate relief in the form of a voucher or handout, but they aren’t actually positioning the individual any better off in the long run and therefore the funding assistance continues,” the mayor said. “The situation doesn’t improve and they end up relying on the system. I believe government should be there to help people when they need it, but should help in a way that they don't become dependent.”

Aside from receiving assistance from city officials, Emmons said the Inspire Center is partnering with regional education and economic development organizations in the county to provide opportunities for residents seeking development opportunities.

 Cayuga Community College (CCC) — one of the community partners helping launch the center — will operate one of their workforce development satellite offices out of the Inspire office.

CCC officials say the Work Ready Oswego NY project — a program part of the larger American College Testing (ACT) Work Ready Communities Initiative designed to close the skills gap, produce a talented workforce to meet the demands of current and future jobs — will be one of the programs developed through the Inspire Center.

The Work Ready endeavor in Oswego aims to graduate students with an ACT National Career Readiness Certificate, which according to officials earns them a “national credential announcing them as a skilled member of the workforce.”

“This is a highly-researched, comprehensive effort that aligns the skills of our local workforce with those in demand by employers,” said Carla DeShaw, the executive dean of community education at CCC. “The ACT WorkKeys System — which includes an online curriculum — helps participants identify potential careers, improve their work readiness skills and earn a nationally-recognized citation. At the same time, it helps employers determine what skills their employees need, and which employees have those capabilities.”

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