The economic downturn disproportionately affects low-income and unskilled workers, especially families living in Public Housing (PH) and the Housing Choice Voucher – Section 8 (HCV) program, who represent the lowest-income families in Montgomery County.

Only 50% of the heads of households are high school graduates; and just 15% of PH residents have completed one year of college. Approximately 85% do not know the proper business dress code; they cannot compose attractive resumes; and they lack the life skills needed for effective customer service and productive relationships with colleagues and supervisors.

In order to reach families most in need, Community Partners works with the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC), the Public Housing Authority that administers the PH and HCV programs in Montgomery County. Since 2008, our Career Building Blocks (CBB) program has provided employment, training-related counseling and services to more than 250 PH/HCV residents with the goal of improving participants’ education and skills resulting in gainful employment and self-sufficiency.

The CBB program aims to improve participants' education and skill levels, helping them obtain employment that offers more livable wages, and ultimately leading them to self-sufficiency.

Career Building Blocks (CBB) provides a curriculum of soft skills training, case management, referrals to vocational training, tuition assistance and job search counseling to help participants reach their vocational goals and achieve better self-sufficiency.

CBB will recruit participants from HOC's subsidized housing programs - households with the lowest family incomes in the county. After conducting a 2-3 hour assessment of the individual's needs and educational level, CBB and HOC will refer them to attend Montgomery College's two-week (60 hr.) soft skills training class. This career building class improves their computer skills and soft skills needed in the workplace and helps them to develop their career plan. Once they have completed this class, participants are eligible to receive tuition assistance from CBB to pursue training in specialties that are most in demand, i.e. biotechnology, pharmacy, construction, medical techs, etc. CBB will refer participants to Montgomery College and/or the Employment Opportunity Center to pursue vocational training. During this time CBB participants will receive case management helping them to overcome any barriers to their career path.

An added benefit of attending trainings on-campus of Montgomery College, is that the CBB participant will be considered an official student of the college and will have access to the college's library system, computer rooms, and the shuttle service to MC campuses. Furthermore, as CBB participants they will be eligible for a $1,000 CBB scholarship to attend vocational training, and for Montgomery College Scholarship and WIA funds when their selected vocational training costs more than the initial $1,000 offered by CBB.

Personal Impact

Unemployed for more than a year with a Bachelor’s degree, “Janice” was very discouraged about not finding a job.  She and her husband struggled to make ends meet. However, when she contacted HOC to inquire about skills enrichment programs, she was introduced to the Career Building Blocks program. After attending just a few program activities “Janice” found CBB to be interesting and uplifting. Over the course of several weeks, “Janice” redesigned her resume, attended mock interviews which helped to increase her confidence and self-esteem. In addition, she completed several soft skills workshops, which gave her insight into career options that best fit her skills and education. CBB also gave “Janice” job referrals and assistance with her transportation costs so she could go to job interviews. Thanks to her active participation in the CBB program and to her skills set, “Janice” received her first job in more than a year at HOC as an administrative assistant.