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United Way of Medina County pulls plug on jobs program

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MEDINA — The United Way of Medina County is ending its Employing Medina County program, a decision brought about by the county’s low unemployment numbers and changing workforce needs.

United Way CEO Cheryl Parzych said Friday that the move will result in the elimination of three jobs in the agency.

She called the board’s decision a “good thing” when viewed in the context of the current workforce climate of the county.

“It’s always tough when people are involved,” she said. “This program did a lot of good work for many people that needed assistance to get on track. You can’t take that away from the program.”

“The fact is the unemployment rate in Medina County has come way down. That’s a good thing for the county.”

Parzych said the agency will redirect funding and resources toward the root causes of underemployment in the county including generational poverty, limited marketable skills, recovery and re-entry.

United Way launched the Employing Medina County program in 2015 with an approach to provide individuals with coaching and customized employment plans to find employment and to assist employers with filling persistent job vacancies. Three positions were created specifically to deliver the program and when the program closes, the agency will no longer have those positions including Debbie Boehmke, program manager.

“That’s the difficult part,” Parzych said. “They are a talented team, very strong, well-known.”

With the county’s continued trend of low unemployment — jobless claims in the county remain the lowest in two decades with the four-week average count of Medina County residents filing for unemployment benefits ending the third week of January at 150 — Parzych said a shift in priorities is warranted.

The count, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, is the lowest for this same period since at least 1999.

The unemployment rate for the month of December in Medina County was 4.2 percent. The overall unemployment rate in Ohio was 4.8 percent

“(Employing Medina County) was originally thought to be a job-seeking program and that was still the backbone — to get unemployed persons a job or reaching a higher level,” she said.

“The unemployment rate is so low that there are other barriers to success. Lots of professionals in the county work on those barriers … when someone is homeless, in recovery or needs further education.”

“If someone wants to work, they’re working,” Parzych added.

In three years, the program has aided 200 households, many of which have children, resulting in more than 500 family members helped.

“We’ve had that good fortune in Medina County,” Parzych said, adding that workforce needs in the county are now in manufacturing and health care. “There are job opportunities and there are options.”

The United Way has developed transition plans for the program participants and the staff who manage the program, Parzych said.

Medina County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Bethany Dentler said in an email Friday that she looked forward to working with the United Way in the future.

“The United Way of Medina County has been an important partner in our community’s workforce development initiatives, and we welcome their ongoing efforts to strengthen the social fabric of Medina County,” she wrote in response to news about the program’s end.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.
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