Iron Range Program Helps Unemployed Find Jobs, Hope

By KBJR News 1

August 10, 2012 Updated Aug 10, 2012 at 9:49 PM CDT

Hibbing, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - A pilot program is helping to reduce unemployment on the Iron Range, while helping employers fill specialized technical jobs.

It's called the Sustainable Employment through Training and Trade Program, SETT for short. The Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) administered the program, which was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

"People will succeed if you give them an opportunity and a lot of people don't' have that opportunity," said AEOA Employment Counselor, Bob Hocking.

The six month program helped the unemployed find long term jobs by giving them free specialty training and helping them overcome personal obstacles.

"Hibbing Community College [and] Mesabi Technical College got them up to speed as far as new technology," said Hocking.

Hocking says that the agency found that unemployment was a problem, not because jobs weren't available, but because there was a shortage of people with the right skill set to fill them. The SETT program's work involves bridging that gap.

"We got to talk with employers directly and ask them what their needs were," Hocking said.

One of the employers was Hibbing Fabricators. They hired a full time worker after the worker completed an internship with the company through the SETT program.

"This was actually perfect because the potential employee is getting trained and so they get to try you out as well, said Hibbing Fabricators President, Sandy Bryant, "They can kind of see what they're doing and what kind of environment they'll be working in."

But for Hocking the program is about more than just its success in finding people jobs, it's about giving them a new sense of confidence.

"A lot of them felt that they didn't belong," said Hocking of the program's students who were unemployed, "Once they got the training, they felt that they were somebody."

The Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency says that they're in the process of applying for more state grants so they're able to do the program again.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.