Matching North Country job seekers with the employee vacancies that area businesses are seeking to fill is a complicated puzzle. However, the North Country’s OneWorkSource Business and Employment Centers are helping to fit those workforce needs together. Strictly Business talked with Kelly Smart, Senior Coordinator of Clinton County Employment and Training, to get an overview of the services they provide.
The centers are part of the American Job Center Network, a national network of employment centers established by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which was enacted to bring employment resources together at one location so that job seekers are able find the support they need in one place, rather than being referred from one location to another.
Each county or area in the nation has a job center similar to Plattsburgh’s, with the center’s size and resources based on the population it serves. Plattsburgh’s office is the largest in the North Country, however Essex, Franklin, and Hamilton Counties also have smaller OneWorkSource Centers that are overseen by the Workforce Development Board in Plattsburgh.
Agency Partnerships—Pieces of the Puzzle
OneWorkSource is an umbrella name for the multiple agencies that work together to provide services for job seekers and businesses alike. “Because we’re in one location together, we know what services our partners provide, and we can make more informed referrals,” said Smart.
As Sylvie Nelson, executive director of the North Country Workforce Development Board noted, the job center is equipped to assist a wide variety of job seekers. The centers give veterans a priority for services. There are five “co-located” partners at OneWorkSource in Plattsburgh:
Partners in Transition is a new agency at OneWorkSource. A part of Champlain Valley Educational Services’ Special Education Program, it works in partnership with ACCES-VR and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to provide work readiness training, job development, coaching support, assistive technology, and more. “Sometimes people need that connection and coaching from agencies that can help them succeed,” said Smart. She described the program as a good “connector agency” that keeps people with disabilities in contact with the resources they need and agencies that can support them.
OneWorkSource also has a Summer Youth Employment Program, which has been in existence for many years. Clinton County alone employs around 95 kids every summer; other counties in the North Country have similar, smaller programs. “We get kids from all over the county, from all school districts,” said Smart. She is currently working to get this summer’s program under way. “Fewer kids apply every year,” she said. “Hopefully jobs will not go unfilled because we don’t have enough kids who are interested in working. It’s a great opportunity for those who take advantage of it.”
The center also has a program for older, at-risk youth up to age 24 who may have dropped out of high school and don’t have the training necessary for a well-paying job. We can send these young adults to CV-TEC’s High School Equivalency Program, to college, or to other training programs. It also pays for support services like transportation, child care, uniforms, tools, and supplies.
For job seekers who want extra help, or who might not be ready for employment, staff at the center can suggest and help them sign up for many free workshops (listed in gears).
In addition, the center offers free aptitude testing to help job hunters target their searches. OneWorkSource offers the “Ability Profiler,” which can be completed at the center and is offered free of charge. Afterwards, an employment counselor will go over the computer-generated report of their results with them. “It’s a great place to start, especially if somebody wants to train in something, or change their direction,” said Smart. “The results give people an overview of what their interests and skills or competencies are, and what they might be good at.
People who have taken the Ability Profiler can then work with a job counselor or labor services representative who can help them match their interest/aptitude areas with jobs or training opportunities that are available. Smart explained that many who are collecting unemployment can request permission to train for opportunities while they’re receiving benefits.
One of the most important features of the OneWorkSource Job Center—and the place for job seekers to start—is its Resource Center, which can serve as a fully equipped office for job seekers who might not have the resources at home. OneWorkSource has some exclusive job openings that aren’t listed anywhere else, but it also provides access to jobs listed with other sources. “We like to help people apply for any positions they can,” said Smart.
In addition to information on area job openings, the Resource Center features computers with internet and email access, printers, fax machines, newspapers, and trained staff members who can help job seekers set up the email accounts that are necessary to apply for so many job openings today.
The center also hosts recruitment events for local employers. Businesses can advertise on site at OneWorkSource, where job seekers using the Resource Center can see the events advertised, along with a list of job openings. Between all OneWorkSource Career Centers, there are several recruitment fairs per month. OneWorkSource also advertises these events on its Facebook page; people who follow the page automatically see all recruitment events being held, along with helpful job-hunting hints.
Training to Meet Needs
The agencies that partner with OneWorkSource provide training for many jobs that meet local business needs and, in many cases, funding for training in high-demand occupations.
Eligibility for the various training programs is different in each case, and can be as simple as being unemployed or having no high school diploma. Likewise, the training can vary from short term programs to GEDs, certificate programs, associate’s degrees, on-the-job training, or apprenticeship programs. (The center is currently funding an electrical apprenticeship program for several people.) “There is a need for skilled craftspeople,” said Smart, “so apprenticeship programs are a great addition to what we do.”
For example, if a job seeker doesn’t have the high school diploma that is a prerequisite for a specific in-demand job, CV-TEC offers an adult high school equivalency program through OneWorkSource with a variety of classes held at the job center and offered at a variety of times during the day to make it convenient for people to attend.
Or, if there’s a particular need in the local manufacturing environment, OneWorkSource’s educational partners will meet with manufacturers to design programs to meet those needs. For example, the AIME program—Assembly Industry: Manufacturing and Education—a joint venture of CV-TEC, Clinton Community College, ETS, and other partners, was specifically designed to meet the needs of area manufacturers. The six-week program culminates with an “employment seminar” where employers interview the graduates. “We’ve offered the program at least 15 times and the job placement rate is over 90 percent,” said Smart. She added, “I don’t think anyone has ever had to pay for this training; there is usually funding available for just about everyone who wants to participate.”
All in all, OneWorkSource offers something for just about every job seeker. “We attempt to match job seekers with real, attainable jobs,” said Smart.