- The Washington Times - Monday, December 12, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray says his signature jobs program is entering a new phase that will focus on job seekers who have not taken advantage of city services that link their skills with suitable employers.

Mr. Gray pitched the redoubled effort as a “major expansion” of the One City-One Hire program announced in early September.

The initiative is based loosely on a pilot program in Atlanta and asks employers in the capital region to hire at least one D.C. resident. The goal is to put 10,000 D.C. residents to work in a year.

So far, officials said, the program has enlisted more than 300 employers and helped 1,335 residents find jobs, according to city data.

“We’re demonstrating that the city is a leader on this issue,” Mr. Gray said.

The mayor said the program highlights a much-improved Department of Employment Services (DOES) as an agency that puts people back to work rather than as a “place you go and apply for unemployment.”

In the past, the agency tended to send a large list of names to an employer regardless of their relevancy to the positions available, officials said last month after the Metro transit system joined the program.

Officials said the program is targeting job seekers in wards east of the Anacostia River, where unemployment has reached levels that are triple the national average, which was 8.6 percent in November.

The first phase of One City-One Hire focused on employers that had vacant positions and how the city could serve as a “bridge between people who have jobs and people who need jobs.”

Now the city is offering registration sessions, airing public-service announcements and marketing the program in D.C. libraries to make sure unemployed people get on DOES‘ radar.

The PSAs featuring DOES Director Lisa Mallory will air on city cable channels, local network affiliates and radio stations, city officials said. Ms. Mallory also recorded a Spanish version.

Job seekers can sign on to the DOES database through a simple form or online.

“I think what’s new is that we’re taking a much more aggressive approach,” Mr. Gray said Monday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Northwest, a symbolic location because many visitors use library services to find jobs.

Ms. Mallory said new outreach efforts made sense in light of the first few months of the program, in which the city encountered and placed many job-seekers who were not already in its database.

“Is this a panacea for the huge challenges we face? Is it the magic silver bullet we all seek? Of course not,” she said.

Harry J. Holzer, a Georgetown University professor of public policy spoke in support of the program, describing it as an “impressive and innovative effort” similar to federal programs that have worked in various locations.

“It would be a shame if we burden this initiative with unduly high expectations, given the magnitude of the challenges we face,” he said.

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