Posted at: 12/12/2012 2:18 PM
Updated at: 12/12/2012 6:22 PM
By: Brett Davidsen
In August I-Team 10 told you about a local not-for-profit company that got millions in stimulus money.
Pathstone Corporation received the grant to create "green jobs."
But at the time, critics were asking, where are the jobs?
Now that the program has wrapped-up, Pathstone is answering questions about whether it was money well spent.
"I work for a company called Hope Initiatives, and we make furniture for the disadvantaged. It's basically temporary furniture. I weld the bed frames and chairs," said Leander Blue, who makes makes $9-dollars an hour as a welder.
He was eager to get a new start in life after spending 12 years in prison for dealing drugs. But first, he needed the skills to enter the job market.
"I didn't think that there would be opportunities for ex-offenders to have success at re-entering society," Blue said.
He went to Pathstone Corporation for job training.
Pathstone is a not-for-profit community development and human services organization headquartered on East Avenue.
Blue's training was made possible thanks to an $8-million dollar federal stimulus grant to Pathstone for green jobs training, $2-million of it to be used here in Rochester.
Called "Green for Gold," it was supposed to target de-construction jobs, focusing on city properties slated for demolition.
But as I-Team 10 first reported in August, Pathstone and other not-for-profits have come under intense criticism from some members of Congress who question just how many "green" jobs have actually been created with those stimulus grants.
They put nearly 400 people locally through the training program, according to Pathstone CEO Stuart Mitchell.
"We have placed already more than 100 people into self-sustaining, full-time, year-round, full-time employment," said Mitchell.
Junior Virella had a different experience at Pathstone.
He says he went through 80 hours of classroom job readiness training, enough to earn this certificate stating that he completed the "Green for Gold" program.
Brett Davidsen said, "You have the certificate that says green for gold."
Junior Virella said, "Yes."
Brett Davidsen said, "Did they ever discuss deconstruction?"
Junior Virella, said "No. No they did not."
Brett Davidsen said, "How much of that 80 hours did you spend training about green jobs?"
Junior Virella said, "None."
Instead Virella said he left Pathstone after they tried to get him placed in part-time fast food jobs.
"I think the money that was spent on these individuals was spent well," said Velma Smith.
Smith was in charge of "Green for Gold," and acknowledges Pathstone got a waiver to use the grant money for non-green related jobs when the market for de-construction positions failed to materialize.
"Part of our focus was to do deconstruction and that deconstruction because it was a smaller amount of jobs that we could do, we actually went to MCC and started doing other things as well," Smith said.
In October the Labor Department's office of Inspector General issued an audit on the Recovery Act's green jobs training programs across the country, and found the impact "has been limited in terms of reported employment outcomes."
In it, auditors found it cost nearly $13,000 for each job Pathstone helped in placing.
Undeterred by the critics, Pathstone recently celebrated the conclusion of the program, declaring it a success.
"We think we've been very successful recognizing that we are in a very difficult employment market right now," Mitchell said.
An employment market that Blue said he is happy to now be a part of.
"Pathstone gave me a career opportunity, a chance at life and a new beginning."