Friday, September 28
Free Speech on Trial in Twin Rivers
They say you can’t hang up a clothesline because someone might see your underwear. They won’t let you fly the American flag. You can’t plant a bush or paint your shutters unless they approve. Who do they think they are? “They” are the homeowners’ or condo association whose rules, however whimsical, you contracted to abide by when you bought your house or condo. The unchecked power of such boards in association-governed communities has been upheld in every state in the nation.
Compared with many, the Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association has been considered fairly benign. Most of the 7,422 residents in the 2,818 homes located just outside Hightstown on Route 33 have had little complaint since the development received its first residents in the late-1960s. Yes, there were complaints about requirements that garage doors be painted in only one color, things like that, but nothing major.
Recently, however, residents have been waging a seven-year fight over just how much free-speech restriction the Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association could apply.
They lost, and result was a landmark decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Sending a wake-up call to associations and to the legal community, the decision has spurred the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education to offer a panel discussion, “The Twin Rivers Decision and Its Impact on Life in Association-Governed Communities.” This event takes place on Friday, September 28, at 9 a.m. at the Sheraton at Woodbridge Place in Iselin. Cost: $169. Visit www.njicle.com. Panelists include Frank Askin, a professor of law at Rutgers University who teamed up with the ACLU to defend the residents rights; J. David Ramsey, former director of New Jersey Chapter of Community Associations Institute (CAI); and Barry Goodman, attorney with Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis in Woodbridge.
Askin has been working with the ACLU on the case of the Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. the Twin Rivers Homeowners Association.
The son of a Baltimore bootlegger and saloonkeeper, Askin learned his way around the practical side of the law early on. He worked as a journalist for several papers including the Bergen Record, Newark Star Ledger, and the New York Post.
Midway through his college undergraduate career Askin enrolled in Rutgers Law School. In l963 Askin both earned his J.D. from Rutgers and his bachelor’s from the City College of New York. By l970 he was a professor of law at Rutgers, where he founded and still heads the Constitutional Litigational Clinic. His book “Defending Rights: a Life in Law and Politics,” published in l997, tells of his efforts to win justice for everyone from “long-haired travelers harassed by police” to the homeless seeking library access.
Having flip-flopped between the Civil, Appellate, and the state Supreme Court, the Twin Rivers decision is one in which both sides are claiming victory. And each is correct — to some extent.
Politics nixed. The origin of the case was a ban on the political campaign signs that some residents posted throughout the complex, which the homeowners’ board claimed was against the rules. Another issue was the refusal of the homeowners association to publish negative articles or letters by residents in the community newspaper. To argue this and other points against the association, in l998 several residents formed the Committee for a Better Twin Rivers, with resident Edward McDonald as chair. Tempers flared and the case was taken to court.
The homeowners association claimed that it had pre-stipulated rules about posting signs, limiting place and number, and to some extent the content of such signs. The Committee for a Better Twin Rivers argued that the Twin Rivers governing board was acting as a municipality, dictating laws of the land and collecting taxes (maintenance fees), and thus acted as a quasi public entity.
Along with the right to impose such municipal-style strictures, the committee insisted, came the responsibility to protect the individual rights of those in this community. That is, the Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association must legally protect its residents from its own unconstitutional laws. The other, simpler, committee argument stated that Twin Rivers could not violate the freedom of speech and expression guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.
The verdict. “It was a totally contradictory and confusing decision handed down by the Supreme Court,” says Askin. At first glance, it appears as if the homeowners associations have won a great victory. This past July 26, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Askin, the ACLU, and the Committee for a Better Twin Rivers.
The judges stated that the homeowners’ association was not a quasi-municipality responsible for anyone’s rights. Rather it was a private entity that could reasonably limit freedom of expression within its boundaries. Residents must obey by virtue of the binding contract signed at time of sale.
“But actually, freedom of expression, in this conflicting decision, really got a boost in Twin Rivers,” says Askin. Homeowners, the decision stated, should be allowed to place one political sign in every window of their homes and one on the yard. Also, individuals were allowed to call on neighbors door-to-door and campaign. This is something that many development associations previously have forbidden.
This gives Askin and other defenders a usable precedent. Conversely, homeowners’ associations can take solace, and precedent, from the ruling that the association maintains total control over the community newspaper.
The effect. Over 1 million New Jerseyans — one-eighth of the entire population — live under the rule of homeowner associations. Without a doubt, that fraction is increasing and many complain that it is nearly impossible to gain housing without submitting to association government. In the East Windsor, Hightstown, Cranbury area around Twin Rivers, the only non-association homes available start at $300,000 and up — way up. Only the well to do can afford freedom to paint their house a color of their own choosing.
Residents must not only abide by the rules stipulated at the point of sale, but they must obey any ruling that comes thereafter. There is no redress. In every state the existence and general practices of homeowners’ associations have been upheld.
“Municipalities love these associations,” says Askin. “They relieve the township of several responsibilities, thereby lowering expenditures. Further, the Community Associations Institute (www.caionline.org) is an enormously wealthy lobby that knows how to maintain its hold.
Yet however great homeowners associations’ power, they are invariably trumped by the protections of state constitutions and of the U.S. Constitution. In the Twin Rivers case the court stated that “at a minimum, any restrictions on the exercise of those rights must be reasonable as to time, place, and manner.”
In the end, neither party walked away completely happy. And if you want to keep abreast of who is running for office in the 2008 elections, just drive by Twin Rivers. The signs will democratically point the way.
— Bart Jackson
Steps for Controlling
Costs of Healthcare
The availability, cost, and quality of healthcare is a political issue at all levels of government, says Henry C. Fader, the partner in charge of the health care practice at law firm Pepper Hamilton, and it is the business sector that is bearing much of the brunt of the high cost. But agreement on a solution has so far eluded policymakers.
“What is standing in the way of efforts to reduce and control costs are what appear to be political agendas about how healthcare should be delivered and who should pay for it,” says Fader.
Although a macro solution to healthcare and health insurance may be far off, Fader suggests that business can take steps immediately to reduce cost.
Fader speaks to the Human Resources Management Association on “Legislating the Cost of Health Care: A New Era?” on Friday, September 28, at 8:30 a.m. at Pepper Hamilton’s offices at 301 Carnegie Center. Cost: $20. To register, go to www.hrma-nj.org. For more information, contact Grace Polhemus at 609-924-6343.
Here are a few of Fader’s ideas:
Bring wellness solutions into the workplace. Partnerships for Prevention, a national organization promoting healthier living among employees, is finding, says Fader, “a dramatic potential for savings in cost if we can keep people healthy, out of the hospital, and not having to take medication.”
Many people — most adults, in fact — spend nearly all of their waking hours at work, so the workplace is the logical, and ideal, place to foster good health. A company can promote walking — a universal prescription for improved health in anyone able to tie on sneakers and take a few steps — by handing out pedometers to employees and running contests to maintain activity, or it might aggressively tackle smoking cessation and weight loss.
Finding room for even a small gym is another idea. If this is not possible, employers might consider asking fitness centers for discounts for their employees — and perhaps chipping in toward monthly fees.
Take advantage of new health savings accounts legislation. Of the approximately 70 million workers who receive health benefits from their employers, only 2.7 million have high-deductible plans with a tax-protected health savings account to help manage the deductible. This is an option that might be worth investigation.
With this type of plan employees are responsible for the first $1,000 of medical expenses until the deductible is fulfilled. Any payments beyond the deductible come out of funds that belong to them in the health savings account.
“This is a tax-effective way for employees to manage their care,” says Fader. “They are more involved. They question providers and the pharmacy, and they ask whether the next test is necessary.” The money that goes into these tax-protected accounts would come out of the employee’s salary, with a matching contribution from the employer.
Initially the size of the health savings account was limited to the size of the deductible, but these limits were raised at the end of 2006, allowing contributions of up to $2,850 for individuals and $5,650 for families. “There is a potential for savings in the account and accumulation of funds to pay medical bills in the future,” says Fader. These funds could provide some relief in the case of a catastrophic illness or other unusual expenses.
The 2006 amendments to the legislation also allow early retirees, between the ages of 55 and 64, to transfer money from individual retirement accounts to health savings accounts, tax free. Before, explains Fader, “if employees took early retirement, they were hammered with health insurance costs, paying individual rates because they were not on Medicare.”
A drawback with this plan, however, is that cash-strapped employees may hesitate to get a test or a preventative screening that could find a serious disease at an early stage, when treating it would be far less expensive than it would be down the road.
Negotiate with your health insurance provider. One area in which employers have had success is in reaching an agreement not to pay for hospital-acquired infections and their consequences.
Several factors have contributed to increased infections in hospitals. First of all, an increasing number of infectious diseases are becoming highly resistant to antibiotics. At the same time, hospitals have not been screening all new patients for infection when they come into the hospital. Because no one has been tracking and treating those infections, they sometimes spread to other patients.
Another factor is that with faster treatment and earlier discharges, especially with surgical cases, patients are leaving the hospital with the potential for infection and often get readmitted for its treatment.
Hospital-acquired infections often cause serious complications, resulting in either a large bill or even death, and both government and private insurance have started to hold hospitals responsible and deny payment. Medicare, for example, has announced that it will not pay for complications caused by an institution arising from a patient’s treatment. This could include a surgery patient who came into the hospital infection-free, but acquired an infection after surgery, as well as clear-cut errors like leaving something in the body cavity or operating on the wrong arm.
Efforts in Congress and state legislatures to mandate what government plans, such as Medicare and Medicaid, need to pay for will also have an effect on private plans. “Employers will become more aggressive in contract negotiations with plans,” says Fader, “because they do not want to bear the costs of insurance to cover hospital errors.”
When private health insurance plans also begin to refuse these costs, hospitals will be left holding the bag, with no one to bill. “They will take a financial loss going forward from payers who say ‘we will not pay the additional bill,’” says Fader. The net result is that hospitals are beginning to test people for infectious diseases when they arrive in the emergency room or for preadmissions testing to document any pre-existing infection.
Although hospitals often try to justify themselves, citing the difficulty in stopping errors and identifying infections, there are many steps they can take, even beyond admissions testing.
Hospital pharmacies, for example, are encouraging physicians to write their prescriptions and notes electronically rather than by hand. The pharmacies are also using computer programs to identify conflicts between drugs and scanning bar codes to help identify what drug a patient is about to get.
Although these changes demand more time, investment, and training by hospitals, Fader thinks that they will pay off. He cites a case study in a western-Pennsylvania intensive care unit. When researchers talked to patient care providers in the intensive care unit, they realized the nurses had different training on how to put in the central line through which drugs enter the patient’s body. In some cases, they also found a lack of supplies. To address the problem, they had a task force come to the bedside any time a patient acquired an infection. As a result of the study, they reduced infections in the unit significantly.
Fader graduated with a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Rochester in 1968 and received a J.D. degree from Syracuse University College of Law, where he was editor of the Syracuse Law Review in 1973. Initially a corporate lawyer, he moved into healthcare when serving as a bond lawyer for the Hospitals Authority of Philadelphia. His father, 92, was in the electronics field, and his mother, 89, was a credit manager for a plumbing corporation.
As a big election year approaches and candidates pull together platforms on healthcare and health insurance, businesses are looking for ways to reduce healthcare costs while still offering benefits to their employees. In the interim, a few of the baby steps suggested by Fader may ease the burden — at least a little bit. — Michele Alperin
Saturday, September 29
Recycling Options For PCs & Monitors
It’s time to deal with the monitor that has been gathering dust in the den, the three laptops, circa 1994 through 1999, that only accept floppy disks — oh, yes, and the broken television in the basement. Perhaps it’s also time to free what used to be the supply closet at work, the space that’s chock-a-block with out-of-date computer equipment.
The stuff is definitely in the way, and definitely not going to be of any use ever again. Yes, it cost a fortune just a few years ago, but with blazing fast, brand new computers going for less than $100, and the price of spiffy flat-panel televisions dropping faster than Katie Couric’s ratings, all of that previously cutting-edge technology is now nothing but plain old junk.
Getting rid of electronic waste is not easy, though. Janet Pellichero, recycling coordinator for Princeton Township, says that just chucking the stuff in the garbage is “terribly not safe.” For the moment, it is not illegal for homeowners to do so, she says, but it is a serious detriment to the environment.
“There can be 4 to 25 pounds of lead in a monitor,” Pellichero says, naming just one of many toxic elements commonly found in electronic equipment. If a monitor breaks as it is being hauled away all of that lead will leak out.
Besides, she adds, it’s irresponsible to send electronics to landfills when there are alternatives — and there are alternatives, for both homeowners and for businesses. In fact, Mercer County is holding two recycling events for homeowners soon. Dan Napoleon, the county’s director of recycling, says that such events are held five times a year to ease the burden on landfills and to ensure that all of those bulky monitors that are being replaced by flat screens do not pollute land and water.
The first event for homeowners takes place on Saturday, September 29, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Dempster Fire School, located on Bakers Basin/Lawrence Station Road. It will occur rain or shine, and chemical waste will be accepted along with unwanted electronics. While no registration is necessary, the event is open to Mercer County residents only, and attendees will need to show proof of residency, such as a driver’s license. No commercial or industrial waste will be accepted. For questions or more information, individuals should call 609-278-8086 or visit www.mcia-nj.com.
Acceptable household items include aerosol cans, household or car batteries, rechargeable batteries, photographic chemicals, used motor oil and oil filters, lighter fluid, propane gas tanks, pesticides/herbicides, pool chemicals, oil based paint, paint thinners, stains/varnishes, gasoline, anti-freeze, gas/oil mixes, driveway sealer, insect repellents, mercury.
Acceptable used electronic items include central processing units (CPUs), modems, printers, keyboards, computer mouses, fax machines, copiers, circuit boards, televisions, monitors, electrical wire, stereo equipment, laptops and laptop peripheral equipment, scanners, phones/telecommunications equipment, microwave ovens, networking equipment, VCRs, camera equipment.
The second event, for electronic equipment only, takes place on Saturday, October 20, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton.
Homeowners may bring 50 pounds worth of electronics to each event. Businesses are not welcome to unload their electronics at either. But they have an even easier alternative. And a huge incentive for using it.
Under DEP regulations it is illegal for “any business of any size” to throw old computer equipment in the garbage, says Pellichero. The fallout from doing so can be catastrophic, not only for the environment, but also for the fiscal well being of the company.
This is so because if a small company decides to slip three or four monitors into garbage bags — thinking, “no big deal, who cares?” — and one or more of the monitors breaks en route to the landfill, the company is responsible for the whole trail of leaking chemicals. The resulting bill for the clean-up could bury a thriving company more quickly than a bulldozer can cover a few yards of rotten produce with fill dirt.
To avoid this fate, Napoleon suggests that companies — and consumers, too — check out the county’s exchange program at www.mercermax.org. Post an offer of free computers there, and someone who doesn’t mind using a model that is a few years old may snap it up. “We’ve had a number of computer exchanges,” he reports.
But sometimes a computer is just too old, or too damaged, to find a new home. For companies with any computers, or related equipment, that falls into that category, there is now a free, easy way to get them out the door without chancing a nasty run-in with the DEP.
Regentech of Clifton, New Jersey, will come right to your door and pick up your unwanted computers, monitors, and keyboards — at no charge. Any number of other companies will also pick up these items, but most charge a fee.
Pellichero warns that it is essential for companies to look carefully into any outfit that hauls away electronic equipment for disposal — whether or not it charges for the service. She wants to remind business owners that they remain responsible, and will be held accountable, if their old monitors are just dumped in the woods beside a stream — something that has happened any number of times.
Beyond responsibility, says Pellichero, there are ethical considerations. She advises businesses to find out where their discarded technology items are going, because sometimes they are just shipped overseas to a country with lax environmental regulations.
The West Windsor school system, for one, has checked out Regentech (www.regentechinc.com) and uses the company to haul away the hundreds of computers and peripherals that become obsolete in its schools each year. The company not only picks up on-site at no charge, but also takes the computers and monitors just as they are, with no requirement that they be shrink-wrapped and put on pallets, which many other companies require.
Just call the company, at 866-899-7800, and let its representatives know how many items you want picked up. When enough requests from any particular area come in, a truck will be dispatched, and your storage room can be turned back into a coat closet or supply room.
Help Getting Employees Up to Speed
Employers understand it is their responsibility to train employees on job-specific skills. But basic literacy is something they simply expect, even in high-school graduates. But they are not getting it.
“Only one-third of people from high school are ready for the workforce,” says Christopher Emigholz, director of education and workforce policy for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA). Graduates of public vocational school do a little better, with about 50 percent of entry-level employees who are well prepared. Even for college graduates, the numbers are 85 percent for private institutions and 76 percent for public colleges and universities.
This issue has appeared prominently for several years in the results of NJBIA’s annual business outlook surveys, sent to its 23,500 members. When looking at the survey data by skill level, the studies reveal that only 20 percent of entry-level workers have excellent or good written communication skills. Critical thinking, time management, math and science, verbal communication, and self-motivation and initiative skills fall in at 30 percent range — or lower. Only computer and technology skills rank above 50 percent, but not by much.
Looking for a solution, NJBIA started a conversation with the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development, which brought together the 19 community colleges in New Jersey in an initiative to streamline its workforce and economic development initiatives. The consortium has, for example, helped businesses write proposals to the state Department of Labor to get funding for training.
To secure financing, NJBIA and the consortium met with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s commissioner David Socolow. Each year, says Emigholz, $10 or $11 million of training money may go unused because businesses are unable to meet the stringent requirements for receiving a grant. One condition that was preventing small businesses from accessing money, for example, was the requirement that an employer had to fill a class with 20 students.
Because small business, says Emigholz, “is where business is being grown and expanded in the state of New Jersey,” NJBIA and the consortium suggested a more flexible plan. It would allow different employers to aggregate their employees and thereby fill classes, reduce paperwork, and take away some of the matching financial requirements.
“This administration, whether you’re talking about Corzine or Socolow, all want to be more flexible and do more reaching out to the business community,” says Emigholz. “They understand that if they don’t work with the employer community, they won’t get people trained.”
With the $1.88-million-dollar grant that they received from the Department of Labor, the community colleges will be able to train approximately 5,000 workers throughout the state. The grant covers basic literacy, including math and measurement, English as a second language, written and verbal communication skills, and computer skills.
The free training is available to members of NJBIA and area chambers of commerce, and takes place at any of 63 county college campuses around the state. If an employer has enough employees and a training room, a community college instructor will come out and teach an on-site class. The employer’s only financial obligation is to pay employees at their regular hourly rate during training, whether the class is scheduled during working hours or not.
The consortium is coordinating the project, serving as the fiscal agent, and providing classes through the community colleges. The NJBIA is responsible for promoting the classes to its members — at events and through fliers, E-mail pieces, and its website. So far it has elicited inquiries from over 400 businesses, half of which will receive training soon. The community colleges are scheduling both dedicated classes for single companies and open-enrollment classes that accommodate employees of different companies.
For more information, businesses can call Emigholz at 609-393-7707, ext. 201, or program director Bob Rosa at 609-393-9009. To fill out an online survey that assesses basic-skills training needs or to view a schedule of classes, go to www.njworkforce.org and select NJBIA.
Emigholz also sees this project not only as a benefit to the state’s small businesses, but also as a benefit to the community colleges, which will get wider exposure among New Jersey businesses. “Our hope,” says Emigholz, “is that our members will get to know what they offer. If employees start doing ESL, they may sign up for an associate degree or continue to do adult education.”
Before coming to NJBIA, Emigholz handled education issues for the state Senate. He has also worked as a high school teacher through Teach for America in Atlanta, Georgia, and did community and grant work and volunteer coordination for the Baltimore City public schools. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University in 1999 and also has a master’s degree in education policy from the Bloustein School at Rutgers University. His father is a banker and his mother is a nurse.
Mercer County Community College is an enthusiastic participant in the workforce education program. It has already had to add a second section of its one-day “Introductory Excel” course, which takes place on its West Windsor campus on Tuesday, October 9, at 9 a.m. The college will also offer “Introductory Windows” and “Word” courses bundled together in a one-day session on Tuesday, October 2, at 9 a.m., also on the West Windsor campus.
MCCC is also doing on-site classes in Excel for a large bank in Hamilton and a nonprofit in Princeton. English as a second language classes are already filled, but the college hopes to offer more in the spring. For more information about Mercer’s classes, call Doreen V. Blanc at 609-570-3279 or E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clearly the issue of upgrading basic skills is a problem across the board in New Jersey, and most of the community colleges have already been involved in workforce development with community employers. What is different about the new grant, says Emigholz, “is that it allows us to reach people we’ve never reached before.”
— Michele Alperin
Grant-Funded Internship: Two-Way Benefit
Twenty companies and 10 government agencies gave 10 weeks of summer work experience to 65 youths, 35 of whom were from Trenton. Though the companies provided the real-world mentoring, they did not have to pay the wages. A $300,000 federal grant took care of that.
The “Empowering Youth Employability Skills” or EYES program was an unqualified success, says John Simone of Simone Realty, who is chairman of Mercer County’s Workforce Investment Board (WIB), a public/private consortium that coordinates training, employment, and education county-wide (609-989-6049).
Simone hosted an EYES intern, Erin Harris, in his 12-person real estate office on Franklin Corner Road. It was his first successful experience with a student worker. “Even though we get short handed from time to time we never thought about getting an intern,” he says. “From time to time we had hired college students to do outdoor work, and it was never successful, because the kids were not motivated.”
In contrast, this internship “was a great thing for us. Our intern helped us a lot, and we have asked her to make some time for us during the school year.”
The Mercer County Office of Economic Opportunity obtained the “Learn to Earn” grant, and the Workforce Investment Board matched students with jobs and mentors. Support services, including two weeks of training for the paid interns, were offered by Mercer County’s One-Stop Career Center and the City of Trenton. The grant covered the wages ($2,145 for the summer) plus workmen’s compensation insurance and bus passes. Of the 69 students who signed up for the program, 64 worked the full 10 weeks. “That’s a tremendous record for a first-year program,” says Simone.
The mentors included Alison Jones of Borden-Perlman Insurance Agency on Lenox Drive, David Anderson of Boys/Girls Club of Trenton, Margie Talarowski of Caliper at the Carnegie Center, Carmen Melendez of Century 21/Melendez Realty on South Broad Street in Trenton, Eugene Marsh of Construction Project Management Services on Alexander Road, Thomas S. Townes of Focus Architecture on Tree Farm Road, Lisa Woodson of Horizon NJ Health on Silvia Street in Ewing, Michele Siekerka of Mercer County Regional Chamber of Commerce on Quakerbridge Plaza Drive, Michael D. Briehler of Pennington/Ewing Athletic Center, Bill Bittner of Pets Plus, Robert Fonger of Premier Salon @ Macys, Sherry Moore of Princeton University, Cara Marcano of Reporte Hispano, William Rue Junior of Rue Insurance on Quakerbridge Road, Joy Brooks of St. Francis Medical Center, Molly Delzell of Times of Trenton Publishing Corp., John Morris of the Trenton Marriott, and Greg Coleman of Trenton Thunder.
Mentors from the government sector include Justin Edwards of Mercer County Airport, Idamis Perez-Margicin of the Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission, Jacquelynne Huff of Mercer County/Ewing Library, Bob Eckroyd of Mercer Geriatric Center, Sam Frisby of the City of Trenton, Mary E. Burks of the Trenton Board of Education, Lucille Jones of Mercer County Technical School, Elizabeth M. Yull of Henry J. Austin Health Center, Kitty Getlik of MCCC’s Kelsey Theater, and Monica Weaver of Mercer County Community College. Caterer Karl H. Schott donated the food for a celebration luncheon on August 28.
“Too often, young people in our communities may feel that the only way to achieve financial success is by joining a gang or otherwise engaging in criminal activity,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes at the lunch. “But as all of our EYES participants learned this summer from their partnerships with professional mentors, real success comes from learning a job skill set and applying your skills to make a difference in the community.”
If grant monies don’t come through next year, would employers be willing to pay the wages? Simone thinks so. He cites Keith Goldberg, the general manager of Filene’s Basement, who permanently hired three of his seven interns.
Meanwhile Simone is trying to spread the news about what the Workforce Investment Board can do for employers. “We have not done a good job of letting the employers know what we do,” says Simone. “Despite the low unemployment rate, there is still a tremendous need. People need to improve their skills to move up in the job chain. We want to involve more private sector companies who need employees.”