Pulling together to put people to work
Nobody needs to remind members of Job Seekers that Douglas County’s unemployment is 12.6 percent.
Or that the county’s taxable sales have slipped 20.9 percent.
They’re living it.
Job Seekers, which meets twice a week at the county social services office on Spruce Street in Gardnerville, is part networking, part support group.
The free service was funded with federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act monies and community block grants and created by the new Employment Training/Job Development Program offered through Douglas County’s social services program.
“It’s really free-form,” said Denise Castle, coordinator of the county’s job development program.
“It’s a place where people can come to share ideas and learn what’s happening in the local job market,” she said.
At a recent meeting, Ross, 50, Dan, 58, and Theresa, 52, shared what it’s like to be unemployed in Douglas County.
“I can do just about anything,” Ross said. “Since 1970, I’ve only had two jobs. I was a cook for seven years and the rest of the time, I’ve been in construction.”
Ross is taking advantage of the downturn by studying accounting at night.
“I didn’t think I would like it, but I really do,” he said. “I’m keeping busy, but I’d rather be much more busy.”
He’s making do with part-time jobs, and remains optimistic.
“It’ll pick up,” he said.
Dan is an unemployed lifeguard with experience in fixing swimming pool pumps and water fountains.
He’s also a part-time musician.
“I’m still out there looking,” he said. “It gets discouraging. You get to a certain skill level and feel real good. Then nothing happens and you start to lose your confidence.”
Theresa is an unemployed certified nursing assistant.
“With Denise’s coaxing, I am getting my RN,” she said. “I have a lot of extra time. Online it will take a year or two. I’m also taking a class in public speaking.”
“This is the longest I’ve been unemployed since my daughter was born 18 years ago,” she said.
Twice a week, Job Seekers meet to network and trade tips and information.
“When you bring people together, it’s so dynamic,” Castle said. “They can share their frustrations, job tips, tools of the trade. They may not find a job today, but jobs are turning around.”
Her advice to the newly unemployed: “Take a deep breath, apply for unemployment, assess your own needs, and call me.”
“We provide hope and interaction at Job Seekers,” Castle said. “We remind each other how good we are. We need each other to remind ourselves we’re not alone. This is a safe place to share hard-to-talk-about insecurities,” she said.
Castle is the kind of person you want on your side should you find yourself suddenly out of work.
She acts as cheerleader, employment counselor, and strategist for many of the people who cross her threshold who never been out of work or faced the loss of their homes.
“We have a well-educated and ready employment pool,” she said. “I want employers to think of me and call me when they have positions to fill.”
She said if residents suspect they might be laid off, they should explore all their resources before it’s too late.
“You’ve got to make a plan,” Castle said.
And she can help.
For people whose resumes need updating or clients without computers or know-how to search online, all services are available for free in the agency’s resource room.
“Our goal is to assist Douglas County’s unemployed community members get employed and the underemployed find better matched employment,” Castle said.
Castle is asking local job seekers what they need, and finding out what local businesses are looking for.
“I hope to be the link that brings the two together,” Castle said.
Castle emphasized that she is not in competition with area employment agencies. She has recruited personnel service professionals for an advisory committee.
“We are not reinventing the wheel,” she said. “There are many great resource agencies that already exist and I’ve been making collaborative contact with them.”
Castle knows how it feels to be laid off.
“I came from more than 15 years in a national telecommunications company in Southern California. Less than five years ago, I was a victim of a reduction in the work force,” Castle said.
She viewed it as a turn in “life’s journey.”
“I’ve been reinventing myself over the last five years,” she said. “I was kind of at a loss and it was very scary. I hope I can bring that personal experience to my work here.”
Another goal, she said, is to remove the stigma of social services.
“We’re not just the local welfare office and this is not a welfare-to-work program,” Castle said. “Our services are open to all Douglas County job seekers. I am referring to your family, friends and neighbors.”
Patty Hopkins, branch manager, Blue Ribbon Personnel Services
Matt Kosifas, on-site staffing specialist, Hire Dynamics/Starbucks Carson Valley Roasting Plant
Kim Pierce, partner resource manager, Starbucks Carson Valley Roasting Plant
Christina Slade, business service consultant, Employment Security Division, Nevada Job Connect
Teri Zutter, director, adult basic education, Western Nevada College
Douglas County Social Services has established the Employment Training/Job Development Program financed by the Community Services Block Grant and America Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
The agency, which operates from the Douglas County social services office at 1133 Spruce St. in Gardnerville, offers free assistance to job seekers
A resume-writing workshop is 5-6:30 p.m. Nov. 24. Pre-registration is required.
Job Seekers meets twice a week, Mondays from 10-11 a.m. and Thursdays 3-4 p.m.
For information and registration, contact Denise Castle, 782-9874.