Group Employment Preparation

29 Jun

Another day at the races, as I used to hear as a child.  Yesterday I attended an introductory group employment preparation (IGEP) event administered by the City and County of San Francisco.  I truly believed I had crossed the threshold into the County Adult Assistance Programs (CAAP) Personal Assisted Employment Services (PAES) Program, which would then connect me to a Federally-funded JobsNow4 program.  Having spent over two months trying to reach this point (see post dated May 11, 2012), I would become qualified as a potential part-time employee at the bookstore where I work on-call.  The store owner applied for these funds to hire a worker through JobsNow3, but can only hire an individual engaged in PAES.

There were a number of us seated waiting for the presentation to begin.  The session was already thirty minutes behind schedule when a six-foot-five transgender woman walked in, dressed in a skimpy, form-hugging blouse and spandex shorts, pink house slippers, and a wig that she paid constant attention to with a comb.  A moment later another woman walked in, announcing to the security officer in English that the gentleman at her side was her interpreter.  Using English, the transgender lady asked the woman where she was from.  “Fresno, why?”  “Oh, you said you use an interpreter.  What language do you speak?”  “I’m bilingual, I speak Spanish and Asian.  Some Chinese and Laos.”  From there the bilingual woman began a complaint about the room being full of hot air that persisted until she asked the security officer if she could sit outside while we waited.  She clarified to the transgender lady that she wasn’t speaking about anybody’s personal funk, no, more that the room was stuffy.  As she sat, she began to slightly asphyxiate, claiming loudly that she couldn’t breathe, wherein someone else suggested she was experiencing claustrophobia.  I was relieved when she stood outside, but it did not stop the noise.  I could hear her scolding her interpreter that he couldn’t blame her for the fact that he did not have a cell phone.

The slide presentation from an overhead projector was pleasant enough.  The facilitator used a very soothing voice and appeared to be genuinely connected to the service he was providing us.  I sat next to the transgender lady, who was fascinated by the shadows projected against the wall produced from her fluttering hands.  Following the presentation, half of us were led to a second “classroom” to be processed out by signing a form.  A scrawny, middle-aged woman, who looked as if she had spent ten years battling methamphetamine, sat across from each of us during the signing procedure.  The City and County employee was noticeably perturbed by the transgender lady towering over her, either because the person was decidedly nonchalant and bored or because she was preoccupied with combing her hair the entire time.

Sadly, once I asked about JobsNow4, no one could answer questions about the program.  But they did give me a telephone number to use to reach the offices for the same.  This was the straw breaking the camel’s back.  I already knew from the day’s presentation that we were expected to go through a training program, a half-Monday every two weeks, for three months, beginning September 17th.  When I spoke to the JobsNow4 representative about qualifying, I was informed that qualification would begin after graduating from the three-month training.  In other words, I would be eligible to become a potential employee for the bookstore sometime after January 1 of next year.

It is amusing now to think that one stop along the way involved sitting one-on-one with a City and County employee during an event referred to as Triage.  The worker, completely separated from all of the other workers I have spoken to now over the last two months, asked me a series of pointed questions that no potential employer would ask.  The questions roamed through matters of physical health, including diseases and medication, mental health, criminal history, and job experience.  I had offered a copy of my resume, expecting discussion about my job skills, to which a refusal was made.  But as I later answered her questions about experience, I overwhelmed her to the point where she requested the resume with great reluctance.  Clearly, City and County forms are not designed for a life history like mine.

Rather than sit through six sessions designed to enable a person to enter the job world, I believe I will forgo the service, and thus the opportunity to work at a bookstore, and return to searching for employment as I know how.  At least, when I sit with interviewers, I will not be forced to list the medications I use nor take in concerns about air or wig quality.

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