Johnston Sunrise | October 27, 2016 | By John Howell

Nathan Bonds came to Rhode Island from Indiana in 2013 to take a job as a quality manager for Quality Spray Technologies. He found a house in Cranston, and he, his wife, and five daughters settled into the community.

Then, more than a year ago, he was laid off. He looked for work, even getting promising interviews with two large Rhode Island employers, but he didn’t get a job offer.

On Monday, Bonds was among a handful of recent graduates of the P2E, or Platform to Employment, program to share their experience over lunch at Gregg’s Restaurant in Warwick with Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Bonds is still looking for a job, which he feels he’ll find soon.

“I didn’t know how to get back into the field,” he said of his personal search. He wasn’t going to let his job rejections wear him down, nor was he going to turn to public assistance to make ends meet. He picked up jobs painting and doing tile work and he kept looking.

Bonds said he told himself, “I will have to hustle. I will get it done.”

His family closely followed his efforts and he found it difficult to answer his daughters’ questions why he couldn’t find a permanent job. He started doubting himself and wondered if there was something he had overlooked. He wondered if he was too old to get back into his field, or perhaps, lacked the training employers were looking for.

It was then that he learned of P2E, a nationally recognized program focusing on the specific needs of the long-term unemployed – people who have been unemployed for 26 weeks or more and have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits.

The Rhode Island program is funded by a $1.5-million federal grant that started in February. Since then, said Department of Labor and Training spokesman Michael Healey, 81 have completed the program with 52 of them getting jobs. Healey expects by the time funding is exhausted in another six to nine months, 175 people will have completed the program of which 64 percent will have landed jobs.

Bonds said the program made him realize, “the barriers [to finding a job] are in your mind and don’t exist … I’m not going to give up.”

Joseph Carbone, president and CEO of The WorkPlace, creators of P2E, joined the luncheon and in remarks said, “Recession is a pretty mean creature.” He said P2E provides the tools to restore confidence and that it is a “market driven remedy” matching those skills with the demand.

It was even more than that judging from the remarks of those completing the program.

A confessed baby boomer, Paul Schubert, an export compliance expert, said he has regained his confidence and has the feeling he’ll find a job soon.

Angel Sweeney, who has been out of work for 18 months and is the mother of two grown children and three adopted kids, said the program helped her regain the skills she once knew but hadn’t used.

For Antoinette Bryant the program didn’t simply end at interview coaching and resume writing. She said it “embraced the whole,” explaining how attention was also focused on her son.

“I went in there a troubled person and came out whole,” she said.

Another participant, Michael Green, told the governor that the average age of the group was about 50 and the level of educational achievement ranged from GED to master’s degrees and even a Ph.D. He said a majority of those in the program were early six digit salaries before losing their jobs.

“P2E isn’t just taking people from the 20th Century into the 21Century,” he said referring to social media training during the program.

Rhode Island is only the second state, after Connecticut, to implement P2E. P2E starts with mandatory job readiness training for five weeks including skills assessment, career readiness workshops, career coaching, financial counseling, family support services, and lessons on job-placement strategy. P2E gives businesses a risk-free opportunity to evaluate and consider hiring participants during a trial work experience.

Raimondo was buoyed by the enthusiasm for the program and the success stories.

“Every single one of you are going to get a job,” she vowed. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian told the job seekers to look on the city website for opportunities. Also present for salad and sandwiches were Sens. Michael McCaffrey and Erin Lynch.

Asked if he might have better luck finding a job in Indiana, Bonds said, “I’m here to stay and I know I’m going to land on my feet.”,119011

HEARING HIS STORY: Gov. Gina Raimondo and Warwick Sen. Michael McCaffrey listen to Nathan Bonds describe his search for a job at Monday’s P2E lunch at Gregg’s Restaurant. (SUN RISE PHOTO)