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In 1965, Missouri senators Stuart Symington and Edward V. Long made a $9,000 donation to the Columbia Cosmopolitan Luncheon Club to support a new program teaching men and women how to, respectively, repair Pepsi cases and iron clothes. Today, the program supports nearly 500 members of the Columbia community as Job Point: a nonprofit community development corporation. While today’s job market is significantly more complex, Job Point evolves to manage its ebb and flow.
In the 2015 fiscal year, Job Point, formerly Advent Enterprises, served 432 people with a 98 percent customer satisfaction rate. The nonprofit offers job placement and career counseling for adults with disabilities; individuals who are unemployed or underemployed; people with social, economic, legal, or educational disadvantages; people with physical or mental health conditions; and high-risk youth.
“Most of the people that we work with have barriers, but what I didn’t realize was the sheer number of barriers that individuals may have,” says president and CEO Steve Smith.
Before applying for jobs, many clients go through training and certificate courses facilitated by Job Point. These include programs in office technology; sales; carpentry; heavy construction; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; and nursing assistantship. With such training, the average hourly wage for Job Point clients in 2015 was $10.42, $2.77 more the 2015 Missouri minimum wage.
Some of Job Point’s programs require fees, but most are paid by sponsoring agencies such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, Missouri’s Workforce Investment Board, the Division of Probation and Parole, and the Veteran’s Administration.
“We try to be holistic in our approach in that we work with each person to help them maximize their success,” Smith says. “If the first job we place them in isn’t the right one for them, we help them find a job after that.”
Most often, replacement is unnecessary. According to Job Point, 73 percent of the company’s adult job seekers maintain employment for at least 90 days.
Chuck Bowman, Job Point board member and president of Monarch Title Co., says it’s not just about job placement. He says, “Once they put them in a job, they also mentor and coach them to make sure they’re successful.”
With locations in Columbia and Marshall, Job Point coordinates numerous projects and services, including a partnership with the City of Columbia’s community housing development program. In that program, YouthBuild students build new homes for low income families in the community.
YouthBuild, a Job Point program, assists students 17 and older by building leadership skills, providing job training, and advancing their education.
The program is also a Partner in Education with Douglass High School, helping students with English and empowering those at risk of dropping out.
Job Point is also affiliated with the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital through the nonprofit’s local vocational rehabilitation office, offering their services to veterans who have returned home and seek employment.
Most of Job Point’s initiatives are funded by the Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation Division. Various companies, like Heart of Missouri United Way and MoDOT, help the nonprofit by providing private scholarships to the company to cover costs of services and maintenance.
But these accredited services would be impossible without a staff capable of handling every individual’s situation. As nearly 500 people walk in Job Point’s doors yearly, the staff learns each client’s story and provides services to fit their needs.
“[Our staff] could all be earning more money elsewhere, but they’re very dedicated, very patient, and very open to serving the needs of clients,” Smith says. “They regularly go above and beyond our expectations.”
As clients move in and out of programs, their relationship with the staff at Job Point remains concrete.
“Many of our clients, whether they made it through the program or not, come in and touch base and still consider this a home,” Smith says.
“Our graduations are the highlight of my year,” Smith says. “You see the pride and the satisfaction that our clients have, and oftentimes, it’s the first sustained success they’ve had in their life. That’s very rewarding.”
The nonprofit expects an upcoming construction program, in partnership with the Columbia Housing Authority, to begin in July. A new certification program in electricity maintenance is also being considered for 2017.
With over 50 years in business, Job Point meets its mission to “promote the abilities of individuals seeking employment through innovative training, education and business partnership, enriching the communities where we work and live.”
Bowman says, “[Job Point] receives a lot from the community, but they give a lot back because they’re putting trained, qualified people to work.”