Workforce center, Wal-Mart team up to staff new supercenter

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The people who pass through the doors of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center are your neighbors, and they are hurting. They hope for employment, and many do not much care what that might be. They have kids to feed and mortgages to be paid.

In one of the cruelest years in recent memory, 2002 added to the economic woes carried forward from 2001. Colorado Springs lost more than 7,000 jobs in the period, many high-paying technology sector gigs; however, all were depended on by those holding them, as was the overall economy.

Therefore, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center is a mecca of hope for its clients, and recent news that the PPWFC reached an agreement with Wal-Mart to provide 400 employees for the store’s new supercenter, set to open after the first of the year, is manna.

However, many Wal-Mart job hopefuls are going to come away empty-handed.

“Our database of job seekers currently has over 10,000 names,” said PPWFC director Peggy Herbertson.

Wal-Mart has set up a temporary hiring office at the center at 2306 East Pikes Peak Avenue. “We plan to employ 400 plus workers for various positions and shifts,” said Mike Crowson, the store manager. “We have heard good things about the Workforce Center and are excited they are positioned to help us locate the skilled employees we need.”

Wal-Mart and the PPWFC will hold 10 hiring events in November, and 2,000 people will apply for the 400 positions, officials said.

One of them is Eleanor S., who asked that her last name not be used. She lost her software authoring position several months ago and has been doing temporary services work when it is available. “I have two children and I’ve got to have a job… one that offers benefits like health insurance,” she said. She and her children now live with her mother in Colorado Springs.

“This (Wal-Mart) is the best shot I’ve got right now, but with the number of applicants it is going to be hard to find a position,” she added.

Shelly Kelly, now co-manager of the Wal-Mart on 8th Street, will be an assistant manager at the new supercenter, which opens on Jan. 22. She is part of the Wal-Mart team reviewing job applicants at the PPWFC.

“The Workforce Center contacted us, and we believed it would be a great partnership,” Kelly said. “And it has been very beneficial.”

The PPWFC provides a major, free service to anyone searching for employment. It serves El Paso and Teller counties, and is funded with federal dollars. It employs about 60, and they are specialists in helping others find employment.

Once registered, job seekers have a vast resource available. It ranges from computing 101, which teaches technophobes how to turn the computer on, to workshops on basic computer use. Those already computer-literate may learn new programs, be trained in website use and creation, or enroll in any of several programs to further their computational skills.

Additionally, there are classes on resume writing, interviewing skills and high-tech job searching. Those with resumes may use the center’s fax machine to send their resumes, and those without resumes are free to use PPWFC computers to compose them. Once completed, center employees will review the resumes and make suggestions for improving them.

The center also convenes networking groups for job seekers. “Right now we have five executive networking groups,” said Herbertson.

While only a few hundred people will find employment with Wal-Mart, Hebertson said announcements to come later this month could result in perhaps two thousand new jobs.

“In that respect, it will be a good Christmas,” Herbertson added.

Job seekers can register with the PPWFC at its website at www.ppwfc.org, or in person at the center.