National unemployment has dropped below four -percent. But those numbers don't add up for all sectors of society especially minorities. But there's one local program, Helping Hand, that seems to be showing signs of progress. Five years ago Helping Hand began assisting South Peoria residents and former inmates find jobs. The agency's resource director says they're partnering with companies to get people working sooner rather than later.
Antonio Parker got a job at Cast Technologies three months after his release from prison. Parker said he could not have done it without Helping Hand.
"It's helped me tremendously. It gave me patience, a more stronger strive to work hard to get what I actually want," Parker said.
Parker is among 15 Helping Hand clients working at Cast Technologies in Peoria. A company spokesperson said it's hard to find good employees who really want to work.
"It takes a lot of time to go through application, resumes and trying to sort through and find people that look like they might have a reasonable chance of succeeding based on things like their job history," said Cast Technologies Human Resources Manager Phillip Zerwer.
But Helping Hand's resource director said the agency's focus goes beyond job placement into life skills.
"We're not an employment agency because we're not. If you're here for a job you're at the wrong place. If you are here to change your life then this is the spot to be at," said resource director Ron Valle
Helping Hand client Andrew Spears agreed. Since starting at Cast Technologies last year he's now a permanent full time employee.
"Those who want to come to Helping Hand the doors are always open but you have to want it, to get something out of life. You just can't walk in and expect to get a job. It don't work that way. you got to go through the steps. The program they got there it really helps you if you want it to help," he said.