By Glenn Alan
What makes OIC’s story remarkable is that OIC/DC opened its doors just two years after the Rev. Leon Sullivan founded Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America in an abandoned jail house in North Philadelphia. Opportunities Industrialization Center of Washington, DC quickly became one of OIC’s most successful centers, serving more than 14,000 people within its short history. The program took individuals with little hope and few prospects and offered them job training and instruction in life skills and then helped place them into jobs. The movement quickly spread around the nation and soon OIC had two hundred affiliated programs, serving over two million disadvantaged and under-skilled people.
Today, under the leadership of F. Alexis Roberson, OIC/DC has helped to turn dreams into realities for countless families living in the District of Columbia. OIC/DC continues to successfully train and operate programs with funding from organizations like; The Department of Human Services, the Department of Employment Services (DOES), Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the US Department of Justice, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), with additional program funding coming from Toyota Motor Corporation, and the United Planning Organization.
Over the last 5-years OIC/DC has served placed over 1,341 persons into full time unsubsidized jobs, with an employment placement rate record of nearly 80% and job retention rate of 75%.
OIC/DC offers nationally recognized certification programs like; Microsoft Certification, A+ Computer Repair, Customer Service, Entrepreneurial Training, Home Health Aide Training Certification, National Work Readiness, International Computer Driver’s License, and its signature program – DCWorks, a work readiness program designed for men and women returning from federal and local correctional institutions.
In addition to Occupational Skills Training, OIC/DC provides support services to all enrollees like, Alternative Instructional Services – a tutorial program designed to assist the participants regain academic focus. Through OIC/DC’s strict performance standards, participants develop study skills that enable them to stay on course with the curriculum outline, thereby enabling them to have optimum outcomes.
Basic and Literacy Skills Development: OIC/DC’s literacy skills development programs are designed to provide daily feedback to the instructor and the participant, so that the program can monitor participant’s progress and provide additional assistance.
Strength Based Case Management Services: OIC/DC provides an extensive case management service for each participant enrolled. This case management service uses the Individual Service Strategy (ISS) and the continuous development and improvement of the ISS as an organizational framework for the program.
Referrals and Wrap-around Services: After development of the ISS and assessment, the participants will be aligned to an array of complementary programs and social services operated by public and private agencies in the community.
Job Readiness & Life Skills Training: OIC/DC’s life skills and world of work development is not a stand-alone effort. OIC/DC integrates these important instructional elements with skills and basic educational instructions, so that the participant has a holistic instructional approach.
Job Development and Placement: OIC has a National reputation with employers for not only providing well trained people who are ready and able to work, but for working with employers to keep people on the job once placed. OIC/DC uses this positive reputation as a part of the marketing approach to engage DC area employers with all of our programs. OIC/DC knows that employers are also customers and programs are designed to address their needs as well as the unemployed people that OIC/DC trains.
OIC/DC in partnership with DC Department of Human Services, also operates a teen pregnancy prevention program for 130 youth at the Imagine Southeast Public Charter School in Ward 8.
OIC/DC believes that people living in poverty need jobs, but not just any job. They need jobs that will enable them to be self-sufficient, maintain their families and invest in home ownership. “Employment, self-sufficiency, stable families, home ownership are component parts of a safe and stable community,” says F. Alexis Roberson. “The relationship of these factors and their connection to the quality of life in a community has been researched time and time again. And the research has clearly shown that there is a direct and inescapable relationship of these factors to the community’s well-being. It is a relationship that typically shows, if any one of the factors positively increases; all will increase, resulting in the overall health and vitality of the community.”
Today, OIC/DC looks a little different than it did 47 years ago. They have moved from the once popular 16th Street NW location to Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE. Programs have come and gone. The faces of instructors, case managers and students have changed. Funding sources have dried up, while new ones take their place. Unemployment, underemployment and poverty still grips the community. But through it all, one thing remains the same – at the head of this incredible organization is a dedicated woman, who still answers the call to help people help themselves: F. Alexis Roberson and OIC/DC – Still Standing!
“The Right Training, the Right Career, the Right Place – OIC/DC” Located at 3016 Martin Luther King Jr., Ave SE Washington, DC. For more information call (202) 373-0330.