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Metropolitan Ministries' jobs boot camp helps many applicants land work

Published Mar. 13, 2012

TAMPA — Volunteer Jennifer Englehardt drew double-duty during Monday afternoon's "employment boot camp" at social service agency Metropolitan Ministries.

To her left sat Anitra Green, whose eclectic resume included driving a school bus and working with troubled kids. To her right sat Cassie Falk, a 33-year-old who had worked in customer service and child care, but really wanted to become an administrative assistant.

Fill in recent resume gaps when you were taking classes, Englehardt advised Green. Highlight your current volunteer experience answering phones, typing and helping Metropolitan Ministries visitors, she told Falk.

"Focus your resume on what you've done the last 10 years," she told both of them. "Your resume is your foot in the door … and the hardest part is getting in there for an interview."

Based on results of the previous two boot camps over the last couple of years, most job seekers did more than get their foot in the door. Eighty-three percent of the attendees of the past two camps received a job offer within a month, defying Tampa Bay's persistently poor jobs market.

Florida's unemployment rate has fallen slightly but remains high at 9.9 percent. Competition is fierce, even for front-line sales and service jobs. Long-term unemployment is particularly troublesome, with more than 40 percent of the jobless out of work for more than six months.

Englehardt was one of 15 volunteers from Tampa staffing firm Kforce who was helping job seekers with their resumes at Metropolitan Ministries' Florida Avenue center. On Thursday, Part II of the boot camp, they'll hold mock interviews as a final preparation.

Organizers say the main goal is to help participants land a job. For some of them who are homeless, finding work is an essential stepping stone toward housing and re-integrating into the community.

But that's not the only goal.

"We're just trying to help build them up as much as possible," said Shelley Roth-Kocsis, a veteran volunteer from Kforce. "To boost up their confidence. To give them hope."

Jeff Harrington can be reached at (727) 893-8242 or jharrington@tampabay.com.

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