Workforce center offers hope to jobseekers

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“Employers need you. There is an employer out there who will be lucky to get you,” is the message job hunters were given during May’s open house at the Minnesota WorkForce Center at Lake and Chicago.

“What was formerly one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the City of Minneapolis is now a functioning store of people with jobs,” said City Director of Planning and Economic Development Mike Christianson, marking the celebration of 85 years of American public employment services.

According to data compiled by Workforce Center Manager Kathy Carney, more than 29,000 job seekers logged on to computers in the Center’s resource room between July 1 and Dec. 31 of last year, 6,045 of those as first-time users. Other than computer access during the same time period, 536 individuals were enrolled in the Minnesota Family Investment Program, which helps families work their way out of poverty with cash grants, help with child care costs and medical assistance. Some 369 people were enrolled in vocational rehabilitation, 187 in a dislocated worker program for assessment and placement, and 211 in veterans’ and youth programs.

The Center and its sister organization at 1200 Plymouth Ave. are the state’s largest services based on the volume of individual customers. The Dept. of Employment and Training provides services as the public employment arm of the state through the Center’s resource room, equipped with internet connections, resume assistance, telephones, copier and fax machine. Job-seeking-skills development programs, counselor services, recruiting services for employers and other programs tailored to individual employment needs are also offered.

“The center has been of great help to me,” said Ali Hasson. “I have three interviews with employers near my home that I found today on the Minnesota Job Bank website,” Hasson said. He said he used the Center’s computers to access the internet at least twice a week and had contacted employers using the Center’s job phones.

“I’m going to get enrolled in this Family Program they’ve got,” said Myrna Nelson, who was at the Center’s information desk with her two young children. “Without some help, I can’t go out to look for work. I need someone to watch my kids,” Nelson said.
According to the state, Minneapolis WorkForce Centers are located in geographic areas of the City that traditionally have high populations of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Center Manager Carney says that at 65 percent of the customers observed using the resource room and orientation programs at the Center are African American. Implementation of its orientation programs, like one called “Employment Ready U,” which provides a series of training modules to develop work readiness and job retainment skills, has been an opportunity to recruit and expand services to minority communities, according to Carney. Workforce Center’s diverse group of employment counselors include staff with African American, as well as Somali and Latino heritage.

The Center’s ten employees provide core services through federal Wagner Peyser funding, of which, according to the state, 10 percent goes to serving migrant and seasonal farm workers, people with disabilities, unemployment insurance claimants and non-English speaking populations. Of the remaining 90 percent, the Dept. of Employment and Economic Development commits 50 percent to providing core services to general population job seekers in WorkForce Centers (in partnership with other providers) and 50 percent to business services on a state average.

According to Carney, the combined Wagner Peyser funding for the north/south Workforce Centers is anticipated to be around $600,000 for fiscal year 2008-2009. A portion of this money will be used to offer pilot programs in the coming year that will expand worker readiness and roll out an ex-offender program.