‘Drive to Success’ Program Created by SCCC, City Mission and Transfinder to Provide Reliable Transportation for Economically Disadvantaged Workers To Expand in 2015

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The 'Drive to Success' Program created by SCCC, City Mission and Transfinder will expand in 2015 to increase the number of workers and agencies served.

Transfinder is excited to be joining forces with the City Mission and Schenectady County Community College to help tackle a problem.

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A program known as Drive to Success created to provide reliable transportation to economically disadvantaged workers has moved from a pilot project to a beta-testing stage and will be expanded beginning in January 2015.

Three local partners – an educational institution, a nonprofit organization and for-profit tech company – have joined together to solve a long-standing problem for low-wage earners: Reliable and affordable transportation to and from work. The City Mission in Schenectady, Schenectady County Community College and Transfinder joined together this summer with federal funding from Health Profession Opportunity Grants, authorized by the Affordable Care Act to provide funding for projects aimed at economically disadvantaged individuals with jobs in the health care field.

During the pilot phase, which ran through September and October, more than 20 volunteers made a total of 324 trips, driving eight health care workers a total of 1,777 miles. The health care workers in the initial pilot were employed by either Home Instead or Visiting Nurse Service of Northeastern New York, both located in Schenectady.

Drive to Success is now entering into an expanded beta phase and organizers plan to increase the number of employees being transported from eight workers to 10 in the first quarter of 2015, and 20 workers in the second quarter of 2015. The number of business partners is expected to expand during that period from two to as many as seven.

“Transportation is one of the greatest barriers to success in the workplace for those that are attempting to transition from poverty to sustainability,” said Mike Saccocio, the City Mission’s executive director and CEO. “At City Mission we are passionate about helping people get to work so that they can keep jobs and improve their lives. We are excited to be a part of this multi-sector collaboration, working with other like-minded businesspeople as well as educators and community members, to create a sustainable solution for Schenectady.”

Schenectady County Community College’s acting president, Martha Asselin, called the Drive to Success Program “a great example of a collaboration with Transfinder and the City Mission to use technology and community service to overcome this barrier.”

“SCCC is excited to be a pivotal partner in a unique technology solution to one of the most pressing workforce development barriers,” Asselin said. “Access to reliable and timely transportation for home health aides to supplement what public transportation can provide is critical to many of our students to secure employment after completion of their credential.”

According to the New York state Department of Labor, the fastest-growing occupation in the Capital Region is in personal care. The number of personal care workers in the region is estimated to grow 46.2 percent from 2010 to 2020, or from 3,330 jobs to 4,870 during the same period. The need for home health aides is the fourth fastest-growing occupation in the Capital Region and is expected to increase 40.9 percent during the same period, from 5,960 jobs to 8,400 jobs.

Both health care-related jobs also ranked among the top in terms of job openings in the region. According to the state Labor Department, there are 330 annual job postings a year for home health aides, the seventh highest in the region. Retail salespersons ranks No. 1 with 720 annual average openings.

Unfortunately, some hardworking health care aides lose their jobs because of hardships they face getting to and from work. The City Mission cites story after story of workers walking miles to work or spending hours taking public transit which often can create barriers for a large number of potential employees.

The Drive to Success project couples volunteers from local churches and other organizations with workers needing rides to and from work. Along with the drivers, City Mission employs Navigators who travel with the health workers, providing not just directions to job sites but life and career guidance as well. In effect, they act as a point of contact for employees who are experiencing non-work related issues.

As an employer, Transfinder understands the need for employees to arrive to work on time consistently. Its bus routing software is used by 1,500 school districts across the country to help thousands of students arrive to school safely and on time. Transfinder president and CEO Antonio Civitella said the Drive to Success project aims to solve a fundamental need.

“Transfinder is excited to be joining forces with the City Mission and Schenectady County Community College to help tackle a problem,” he said. “It is especially rewarding to help those that have a great work ethic but just don’t have reliable and affordable transportation. It is a privilege to work alongside SCCC and the City Mission in this effort that will improve the lives of the people in our community, our neighbors.”

Jim Hurley, owner of the local Home Instead franchise, said the Drive to Success program “opens up employment opportunities to people that didn’t have any before.”

“This is an important pilot program that could have far-reaching positive impacts for our region and the quality of service we provide,” he said. “It is encouraging to see such diverse entities such as a college – SCCC – a nonprofit community service organization – City Mission – and a for-profit business – Transfinder – team up together to tackle this problem.”

Joseph Twardy, president and CEO of Visiting Nurse Service of Northeastern New York, said there are more than 1 million home care visits in the Capital Region each year.

“And those visits aren’t all mapped out as efficiently as possible. There is waste built into the system,” he said. As health care trends continue to show a greater push toward moving patients out of the costly hospital setting and into patients’ homes, the need for personal care workers and home health aides will continue to rise.

Twardy said the Drive to Success program could “move the needle” to cut waste and increase job opportunities.

“A project like this will actually help transform where health care is going over the next 10 years,” Twardy said. “It’s a great pilot.”

This activity/program has been funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families through Schenectady County Community College (Grant Number 90FX0007). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS.

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