The optimism in the room was palpable as Our Daily Bread Employment Center’s (ODBEC) Work4Success program graduated its fifty-second class. Each student accepted a certificate with pride from this program at ODBEC, a program of Catholic Charities in Baltimore. Armed with a new resume, cover letter and interview skills, the graduates are eager to start working with an Our Daily Bread Employment Center placement coordinator to begin their job search. Once they have attained a job, a retention specialist will offer assistance over the first year of employment to help ensure success.

Work4Success is a week-long job readiness program for adults. Classes are held Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and are designed to give students the social and educational tools and life experiences to obtain, maintain and advance their careers in today’s competitive job market. Students begin by working with the instructor to assess their work history and skills to determine an appropriate career path. Through resume writing instruction and mock interviews, they learn critical communication skills and gain confidence. Business attire is required and is provided by ODBEC for clients who do not have suitable interview clothing.

“The participants learn about what it takes to get a job and keep it,” said Kerrie Burch Deluca, communications director of Catholic Charities in Baltimore. “They learn the importance of dressing appropriately for an interview, making eye contact, greeting a prospective employer with a firm handshake, speaking confidently, and showing up on time. And they practice these skills throughout the week.”

Students are required to attend five consecutive classes. Once they have graduated, in addition to an assigned placement coordinator, they are given access to voice mail and the Center’s computer lab where volunteers work one on one to aid individuals in their job search.

In 2010, the Work4Success program was supported in large part by generous funding from the Abell and Walmart Foundations, which invested $236,000 and $200,000, respectively. These foundations are committed to funding programs that enable poor and unemployed individuals become self-sufficient. The philanthropic investments made by these foundations have enabled 843 individuals to graduate from Work 4 Success last year alone.

In his closing remarks to the class, Work4Success Instructor, Michael Jones, passionately conveyed how proud he was of the graduates’ hard work and reinforced that this is only the beginning. He explained that now is the time to put what they had learned into action and work diligently with the ODBEC placement specialists to attain and maintain employment.

At the end of the program, graduate William Sessions, Jr. explained how much he gained from the week-long training: “ I understand what is expected of me now in a job interview, how to present himself with confidence, and communicate with potential employers.”