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Native Brief: SALLISAW, OKLAHOMA - The Cherokee Nation is seeking potential employers and unemployed workers to participate in the tribe's on-the-job training program. Tribal officials believe the program is a winner for both groups, as dislocated workers can earn income while training for a new job and employers can receive highly skilled, dependable workers.
Rikki Sanders of Sallisaw
The program is funded by a federal National Emergency Grant. It is managed by the tribe's Career Services Group and is designed to serve dislocated workers with the greatest barriers to reemployment. During the program, employers are reimbursed for a portion of the workerâ€™s pay, encouraging employers to take a chance on a worker they might otherwise pass over. This allows the worker a training period in which to learn their employer's policies, procedures and specific duties and demonstrate their work skills at little risk to the employer. Many participants have been able to get back on their feet thanks to the program, including Rikki Sanders of Sallisaw.
Sanders is a single mother of three who was laid off in 2008 when business became slow at the gas station where she worked. Battling addiction at the same time she was job searching made it difficult to find dependable employment. In late 2010, after being unemployed for more than two years, Sanders decided it was time for a change and enrolled in a drug and alcohol program in Sallisaw. While in treatment, Sanders began volunteering at Comprehensive Addiction and Mental Health Services, a local behavioral health organization. That volunteer work soon led her to the Cherokee Nation on-the-job training program.
"I volunteered here to fulfill my community service requirement. In March I heard about the grant and I started working here full-time as an office manager," said Sanders. "In April I got a house, I had this job, I got my kids back and I had a car-I was very blessed."
Sanders said she has been clean for more than 10 months now and credits much of that to being part of the Cherokee Nation on-the-job training program, giving her a reason to be accountable.
"The program gave me structure, if I didn't have to come here and be accountable for something every day I may not have made it through the 10 Â½ months. I feel like this job was my safe haven and it kept me clean and sober."
Since Sanders started working, she has attended an Oklahoma Tax Commission Workshop and enrolled in college at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, majoring in psychology and accounting.
"I want to become a licensed drug and alcohol counselor and help people, because I know what they are going through," said Sanders. "Without the program I wouldnâ€™t have this job and I probably wouldnâ€™t be back in school."
The program was created in response to widespread recession-related layoffs in the area, and benefits both those who are unemployed and employers within Cherokee Nation's jurisdiction. Employers receive skilled, dependable employees and dislocated workers earn income while training for a new job. During the training period, Cherokee Nation reimburses the employer for a portion of the participant's salary.
posted September 9, 2011 8:40 am edt
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