Doling for dollars

The Cold War over, defense giant Lockheed Martin mines another government program for profit -- the war on poverty

In class, the loud woman in the back comes to Pipkins' defense for his tardiness. "I think an employer doesn't mind if you're just like five or 10 minutes late," she says.

Wrong answer. Most of her classmates moan their disapproval.
Ms. Evans states in no uncertain terms that punctuality matters. "If they open their office at 8, they need you there," she says. "Imagine if I were always late--what would you think of me?" she asks. A few cast quick glances at her assistant, who has been late more than once.

Then Evans returns to her handouts. "You see the money signs on these sheets?" she says, pointing to the symbols in the upper and lower page margins. "You cannot make those unless you keep the job. We don't need a workshop for job-search skills. You can all get the job. You need to keep it."

The handouts offer some useful advice. "Call you [sic] boss NOT the secretary or a co-worker--if you will be late or absent," reads one of nine items on a list.

But the last item seems cruelly tautological: "Avoid the 'Reasons for being fired.'"

"Call us," Ms. Evans tells the group, "if you want to say profanity at the supervisor. Do not leave that job unless you get another job. I don't want to see your faces in here."

On the board behind her, Ms. Evans has inscribed the names of her 18 graduating students with "CONGRATULATIONS" written in huge letters. Four of the 22 who started the seminar, including the woman with the broken arm, have missed two or more sessions and must sign up for another seminar or face a reduction of their benefits.

"Denise," Ms. Evans asks, "would you like to tell us your good news?"
Denise Phillips tells the group, "I'll find out Monday if I get the job at the hospital, and if I do, then I'll have to choose between two." (She eventually chooses the position at the accountant's office.)

The garrulous woman in the back, who has returned to class after her father's illness, pipes up to no one in particular: "Mr. Tommy at Dillard's has told me there are some management positions open."

The woman, who asked that her name not be used, had not found a job by the end of the month.

Before dismissing her students on the last day, Ms. Evans went over the rules for filling out the forms needed to prove that the students--if they hadn't gotten a job yet--had visited at least two prospective employers a day. The teacher's assistant helps Robinson complete his paperwork.

When Ms. Evans begins calling students up to the front of the class to receive their graduation certificates, she calls Robinson first. He looks over the document. "Thanks," he says, with an expression of obvious satisfaction on his face.

At the end, as the students begin to file out the door and into an uncertain world of work, the talkative woman can still be heard in the back of the room. "I got a whole lot of certificates and awards," she says. "I keep them and let my boys see them.

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