SFCC to let go of 27 employees

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 10:19 p.m.
More than two dozen Santa Fe Community College employees stand to lose their jobs July 1 at the One-Stop Career Center in southwest Gainesville.
The 27 employees, who handle casework for job-seeking clients at One-Stop at 4800 SW 13th St., were notified last week that their contracts will not be extended or renegotiated at the end of the fiscal year. SFCC is giving up its role as a coordinator for service providers, but it will continue its role as an educator for One-Stop clients.
Many of the employees could be rehired once a provider is found to replace SFCC, said Angela Pate, the executive director of the Alachua/Bradford Regional Workforce Board, which runs the center.
"It's common practice for new service providers to hire the existing staff and we expect that to be the case with the Santa Fe staff," she said. "I can't guarantee it will be all the same people, but nobody's more qualified than the people already doing the job."
She said the caseworkers, who are paid through federal grants, are shaken by the sudden news. But she praised SFCC for its decision, saying it "took guts" to make the shift.
"They're not pulling out of the system as a whole, they're shifting their focus to their prime mission - providing the best training and education possible to the community," she said.
In a Jan. 18 letter to Pate, SFCC President Jackson Sasser explained the decision, writing, "Our institution desires to focus on our strengths and serve the community through education and training."
College spokesman Larry Keen later added, "Santa Fe did its best to handle the social services, but we really weren't as equipped as other entities might be to do this. It was just a strain on us that is not our area of expertise."
SFCC has been one of the center's six service providers, handling the paperwork and testing a caseworker would do, for at least a decade.
After July 1, SFCC will no longer be a service provider, but it will continue as one of the center's nine training providers.
Workforce Board Chairman Frank McGeown said it was the right decision to free up the college's resources for teaching clients.
"Santa Fe back in the '90s took the bull by the horns and took over the One-Stop center, but that is not their core business. Their core business is education," he said. "They filled a void for a long time, and to me, this is a natural progression. They did some soul-searching and decided it wasn't their job to be an administrator."
McGeown said there's "thousands and thousands" of service providers in the United States that can replace SFCC when its service duties expire June 30.
"It's not going to be a problem (to find a replacement) whatsoever," he said.
The center has 150 to 200 clients a day. Last year, about 13,000 people used the cost-free services, including youths looking for first-time jobs, welfare recipients seeking work and people seeking higher-level positions.
Under its new focus, she said SFCC will train clients in interviewing skills as well as offering initiatives specific to jobs in demand in the area. For example, since new distribution centers are expected to come to Alachua County, the school may offer a "distribution center academy" that would teach the basics of managing a warehouse, Pate said.
SFCC's work with the career center is one of several initiatives the college has to help the poor and unemployed. This fall, the college unveiled its East Gainesville Initiative to fight poverty with education and resources.
The plan includes mentoring and educational classes for residents of the less-affluent east side of Gainesville, programs to bring resources such as computers to the area and partnerships with community leaders, such as faith-based organizations.
Tiffany Pakkala can be reached at (352) 338-3111 or pakkalt@gvillesun.com

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