The District’s On-the-Job Training program, intended to give unemployed Washingtonians new skills, might be in for some retooling of its own. The initiative, previously known for tasking the District’s unemployed with writing reports about museum exhibits and handing out light bulbs, is being investigated by the District’s inspector general, according to the Department of Employment Services and two former trainees interviewed by LL.
Under the program, touted by Mayor Vince Gray as an “innovative tool for connecting residents with jobs,” employers who took on trainees would have much of their salaries paid for by the city or through a federal grant. Ron Hantz and Thomas Batts both participated in the program through local contracting firm L.S. Caldwell, and both say they were interviewed in recent weeks by investigators from the Office of the Inspector General.
“They were looking into, I guess, the funding of the program,” Batts says.
Department of Employment Services spokeswoman Najla Haywood confirms that OIG is looking into the On-the-Job Training program. But DOES has already made up its own mind about the initiative, closing it to new trainees in December 2012. Haywood says DOES will solicit ideas for a new training program to replace On-the-Job Training later this month.
“The program wasn’t necessarily meeting the needs of the trainees as well as the employers,” she says.
Inspector General Charles Willoughby didn’t respond to LL’s request for comment. It’s not clear whether the OIG investigation includes the entire training program or just L.S. Caldwell’s portion of it, which included the museum reports and light-bulb dissemination.
L.S. Caldwell boss Loretta Caldwell, who previously chalked up Hantz’s and Batts’ complaints about her program to sour grapes, says she doesn’t know of any OIG investigation into her firm. She told LL she disagrees with Haywood that the program wasn’t sufficiently helping its trainees. Caldwell also said she would contact the mayor’s chief of staff, Chris Murphy, and DOES bigwigs to complain about Haywood.
Caldwell says DOES’ statements make her want to stop doing business with the agency entire entirely. “This person Najla that you’re speaking with is a liar, and I refute everything that she’s saying,” Caldwell says.
Still, Caldwell might have to work with DOES a little bit longer. Haywood says that the agency is withholding money from L.S. Caldwell until the company provides it with documents proving that training took place.
Caldwell agrees that DOES owes her money, but says her firm has already provided the documents.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery
Correction: This story initially gave the wrong name for DOES spokeswoman Najla Haywood.