PEQUOT LAKES -- Wanted: Five ambitious people stuck in low-income jobs who want to earn more money in better-paying careers. Must be willing to work hard and prove to others that planning and initiative -- along with the help of a mentor -- benefits everyone in the community.
It's called Operation Bootstrap, a pilot program sponsored by the Initiative Foundation and the Pequot Lakes Area Development Organization that is seeking five volunteers who want to build their careers. If the program is successful, it could be adopted by any of the 160 communities in a 14-county region involved in Healthy Communities programs.
Ray Niemann is a Pequot Lakes man who is heading Operation Bootstrap. He wrote and received a $25,000 grant from the Initiative Foundation for the start-up program. Niemann worked for 35 years in the human resources field in the Twin Cities metro area and retired to the Pequot Lakes area three years ago with his wife, Judith.
For the past six months, Niemann has been developing the program, which evolved from discussions during the planning stages of the Partners 56472 Healthy Communities program in the Pequot Lakes area.
The premise behind the program is simple: Five candidates working in low-paying jobs will be selected by a board of directors to participate. The candidates will undergo an in-depth career assessment at Central Lakes College and be matched with a mentor, probably someone now working in the field that the candidate would like to be employed in. A career plan will be developed by all of those involved, and an education, training and job performance process will take anywhere from six months to two years.
Niemann said board members are hoping to know if the plan is successful after a two-year period. The goal is to create entrepreneurs who remain in the community, developing their own businesses, or to provide training for workers who are able to find careers that offer more than $13-$14 an hour with benefits.
Candidates can be from anywhere throughout the Brainerd lakes area, not just from Pequot Lakes, said Niemann.
Niemann recently began interviewing people for the program and so far has received about 20 inquiries. He is also looking for people who are interested in becoming mentors.
He said Operation Bootstrap's goal is to create a successful program that can be expanded throughout central Minnesota, helping 150 families within a five-year period.
The program will help the candidates unblock the barriers to a successful career. It will help them find day care or transportation assistance if needed. The board will try to pay for things other area assistance programs won't pay for with practical limitations.
Similar programs around the state have been developed for specific minority groups, like American Indians or Somali immigrants. However, Operation Bootstrap is open to anyone, male or female, who is single, married or a parent, with no age limits.
"I've been impressed with the individuals I've met so far," said Niemann. "They're dedicated to get from where they are to somewhere else."
To learn more about becoming a mentor or a candidate for Operation Bootstrap, contact Niemann at (218) 543-6448 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.