BRIDGEPORT, CT— Congressmen Jim Himes (CT-4) and Chris Murphy (CT-5) joined The WorkPlace in Bridgeport on Thursday for a roundtable to discuss America’s jobs crisis and solutions to assist the long-term unemployed. At the event, The WorkPlace outlined its “Platform to Employment” initiative, and program participants shared their personal experiences. They were joined by workers who had been unemployed for more than 99 weeks. The group discussed the ongoing jobs crisis and efforts undertaken by the WorkPlace to help the long-term unemployed make the transition back to work.

Click here for photos of today’s event.

Thomas Madison, a graduate of Platform to Employment, spoke about his success with the program.

“The competition for jobs is incredibly tough and it was difficult to get an interview. Platform to Employment delivered exactly what was promised,” Madison said. “They gave me the confidence and support to obtain a position in a completely different industry but still matched my skills.”

Platform to Employment addresses the combined challenges of the long-term unemployed needing to return to work and employers trying to recruit skilled workers. The program is a public-private partnership that gives businesses a risk-free opportunity to evaluate and consider hiring those who have been out of work 99 weeks or more. Participants receive career and job search training before beginning an eight-week work experience program with a partner company. Nearly 40 businesses are collectively expected to provide about 100 jobs.

“As we fight to end America’s jobs crisis, we must do everything we can to help those without jobs, especially the long-term unemployed, find work in our changing economy,” Himes said. “WorkPlace’s Platform to Employment program is putting people back to work by matching individuals with the skills and experience they need to land a solid job.”

“The federal government could learn a lot from the great things they're doing at The WorkPlace,” Murphy said. “People who have been unemployed for 99 weeks or more face a different set of challenges that take different strategies to overcome. The people we heard from this morning are working hard to regain their footing in the workforce, and this should serve as a model for getting people back to work across the country."

The WorkPlace, Southwestern Connecticut’s Regional Workforce Development Board, helps people prepare for careers and strengthens the workforce for employers in Southwestern Connecticut. Its mission is to develop a well-educated, well-trained, and self-sufficient workforce that can compete in the changing global marketplace.

“There is a profound difference in the types of programs and support required to help workers regain employment after more than a year without a job,” said Joe Carbone, President & CEO of the WorkPlace. “For us to be successful, we must address the effects of long-term unemployment on the American worker, and the American workforce system must adjust accordingly.”