Ready for work – Careers program gives local job-seekers an edge
By SCOTT LOCKWOOD, STAFF WRITER
NORTH PORT — North Port resident Carlo Gambino has always dreamed of having a job in the video game industry. Now, thanks to the CareerEdge Bridges to Careers program that just wrapped up its first class in North Port, he is one step closer to that opportunity.
“This program has helped me with speaking and interview skills,” Gambino, 18, said after the class’ graduation ceremony Friday at the Goodwill in the Shoppes of North Port plaza, which played host to the program, in partnership with CareerEdge. “Before, I was really withdrawn, especially from people I didn’t know. Now I am little bit more open and I can speak a little better — especially in front of people.”
CareerEdge Executive Director Mireya Eavey said the program’s 14 students have spent the last six weeks working on computer skills, résumé writing, practicing the job interview process and networking. They worked with instructors from State College of Florida and took a tour of the Tervis Tumbler plant in Venice.
“We put this program together to help the unemployed people get those basic skills that employers are saying they need,” Eavey
said. “Digital literacy is very important, and they learned the computer skills that they need for the work. The specific purpose was to give them an edge from the employers’ perspective. They tell us what they’re looking for and what applicants aren’t coming in with, and we develop our program around that.” Gambino said he would be happy just to find an entry-level job right now, although he would like to work in information technology, with the hopes it would lead him into the video game industry.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s designing, programming or even marketing,” Gambino said. “Just as long as it’s with video games, I think I could be really happy with my life.” Participants in the program — which is free to those enrolled — ranged in age from 18 to their 50s. One of the graduates, 53-year-old Nokomis resident Debbie Sabatino, who used to live in North Port, thought she may have been too old to do something like the Bridges to Careers program. Fast-forward six weeks, and now she is on a path to landing a job as a certified nursing assistant. She said she was on her way to a job interview immediately after Friday’s ceremony.
“I was on the verge of giving up,” said Sabatino, who formerly worked as a security guard. “I had been reading up on books to help with my self-esteem, so therefore I thought this program would help me. We focused on us and what we needed to work on.
“Things aren’t bad to keep in the past because you can always look at them and ask where you can improve and go forward from. This class gave me more self-esteem — and I didn’t give up on me.”
Others, such as 47-yearold North Port resident Jeff Klinebriel, were able to use the program as a learning tool to get back into or even advance in their field. He spent several years as a parts adviser in auto dealerships and has driven a truck for a beer distributor.
He hoped to use skills learned in the program to return to the auto industry. “I got something out of every little segment of this program — the speakers, the mentors, the training and the computer stuff — which I was pretty ignorant at,” he said. “As a whole, it’s helped me out a lot in the three job interviews I’ve already had.”
As they received their completion certificates, the graduates gave short speeches about the class. One graduate, Pamela Miller,
delivered her speech via PowerPoint presentation — something she learned in the class. Graduate Cheryl Rodriguez of North Port said she was going to put a social media site together so classmates could stay in touch, share experiences in their job searches and keep learning.
Eavey said she will meet with Goodwill officials within the next week to discuss the continuation of the class, and hopes it’s something that Goodwill will be able to take on in a more permanent role in the future. She said a similar CareerEdge program in Bradenton has been highly successful, with several of the graduates finding employment after finishing the program.
Microsoft Unlimited Potential and Bank of America granted CareerEdge with the funding that made Bridges to Careers possible.