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TBICO Expands Job Programs for Women
Newstimes – October 3, 2011
DANBURY – The boxes are unpacked, the computers are set up, and the paint is fresh on the walls of TBICO'S new building at 22 Eagle Road. At 7,000 square feet, the new location is nearly double the size of its former home at 39 Rose St.
"We moved because we needed more space. We can now offer a lot more classes to more students," said TBICO owner LouAnn Bloomer, 65, of New Milford.
Founded in 1993 by Bloomer, TBICO -- The Bridge to Independence and Career Opportunities -- is a nonprofit organization that provides employment preparation and career transition services to women.
Services are provided at no cost. Aside from a core group of paid staff, business leaders from Danbury area companies such as Ethan Allen, Pitney Bowes, Praxair and Cartus, volunteer to teach workshops in their specialties. The organization supports itself with grants, donations and two annual fundraisers. The next one is slated for Dec. 1 at the Lounsbury House in Ridgefield.
In TBICO's Corporate Edge Program, students learn basic and advanced office skills five days a week for nine weeks and attend workshops on topics including self-esteem, resume development, fiscal fitness and the foundations of interviewing.
Students go on mock interviews to local companies and receive constructive feedback on their performance. "Students learn how to say a one-minute commercial about themselves, emphasizing their strengths and accomplishments," said teacher Mary Ann Gontin.
Gontin is president of OI Partners Inc./Cunis & Gontin, a 25-year-old talent management and human resources consulting firm with locations in Danbury and Stamford. "In the second part of this class, women learn ways to keep a job once they get one. If people are going to succeed at a job, it usually happens in the first 90 days," Gontin said.
In the Corporate Closet: Dress for Success Program, women choose from a large selection of gently used, donated business attire. In the Key Rings Program, women receive a grant to use as a security deposit on an apartment. While TBICO has no income guidelines for acceptance, prospective students are interviewed by Bloomer.
Upon graduating from TBICO, the majority women land administrative jobs. Others are in information technology and banking, Bloomer said. Last year, TBICO helped 247 women, she added.
TBICO participants are in transition from welfare to work or lost their jobs in the recession. Others are survivors of domestic violence or stay-at-home mothers re-entering the workforce.
"We don't place people directly in jobs. We give them the tools and support to get a job on their own. We want women to have the opportunity to feel that they're taking control of their future. Our goal is to get them a job they might not have gotten had they not come here," Bloomer said.
"If you're in an environment where people see you as a valid participant, you will see yourself in that way. I want women to see TBICO as a place where anything is possible."
Stay-at-home single mother Julia Caraluzzi, of Newtown, has been studying at TBICO for eight weeks and expects to graduate in October. She has taken classes in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Microsoft Outlook and QuickBooks. Her goal is to land a sales or marketing position at a large corporation.
"I have a bachelor's degree in marketing from 1988, and I really needed to update my computer skills. Aside from being able to do this, I have also learned how to update my resume. Recently I had a mock interview with someone from GE Capital," said Caraluzzi, 46.
"There is a definite camaraderie amongst the students, since we are all here for the same reason," she said. "There is so much positive energy here. On days when my personal issues cause me added stress, I know that if I need a hug, I can always find one here."
DANBURY -- A local job training program will be able to expand its offerings with a $100,000 federal grant announced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District.
Last spring Murphy toured The Bridge to Independence and Career Opportunities (TBICO) and promised to seek the funding after speaking with students, graduates and staff members.
At the time the organization had waiting lists of residents who were out of work and wanting to upgrade their skills to land a new job.
Murphy, who announced the grant Tuesday during a visit to TBICO, said he's visited lots of job training programs over the years, but TBICO is something special.
"This place transforms lives," Murphy said. "Only a handful (of job training programs) change the way people look at themselves and look at their future. With this money they'll be able
to help more people change their lives and help the Danbury area economy continue to grow."
LouAnn Bloomer, president and founder of TBICO, said the money will be used to hire additional staff to teach traditional job skills, math and English. The organization will also begin
offering Saturday sessions.
She added that the grant may be a one-time thing, but she hopes to leverage the money to create programs that will be sustained well after the money runs out.
"I want people to know that this money is an investment," Bloomer said. "I want people to come here a year from now and see what we've done with the money."
She added TIBCO is also hoping for a grant from a private foundation that would allow it to update all of its technology.
"It couldn't have come at a better time," she said about the federal assistance. "This money will allow us to do away with the waiting lists."
Bloomer said the money could help the organization provide services to up to 30 percent more area residents annually.
Amy Meichner, chairwoman of the TBICO board of directors and the senior vice president of global human resources for Cartus, said the money will make a tremendous difference in
"We are a small organization and every dollar counts," she said. "In this climate more than ever, people need help. They need to build upon their skills and their confidence, and TBICO
can help them do that."
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