Unemployment numbers are leveling off after rising to 10 percent nationwide, but area business organizations are still focusing on job recruitment and retention.
Local workforce centers and a new program proposed by Gov. Bill Ritter’s office seek to alleviate the pressure from losing a job and searching to find a new one.
These days, the economy means that the Pikes Peak Workforce Center is giving a different kind of advice, said Dana Rodenbaugh, vice president of the center.
“We’re telling people to look at jobs like stepping stones,” he said. “Particularly displaced workers and older workers. They might not find, right away, that perfect job to match their salary. But if they are anxious to be working again, to take a job that might not be perfect — but look at it as a stepping stone to the next level, to that perfect job.”
The Workforce Center still has money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is putting it to use for job seekers in El Paso and Teller counties, Rodenbaugh said.
“We are involved statewide,” he said. “And we conduct classrooms for job skills training; encourage on-the-job training for companies who might want to hire people who don’t have the skills immediately. We can provide that on the job training.”
Basically, their job is to provide encouragement, support and training for job seekers.
“We even installed the ‘got-a-job gong,’” he said. “Whenever we get word one of our clients landed a job, we ring that gong — it’s great for morale.”
The Pikes Peak Workforce Center is seeing about 6,000 people a month — a number that has been maintained during the recession.
“We’ve seen an increase, but that increase has held steady, Rodenbaugh said. “We are adding people even as people are landing jobs.”
The center accepts both walk-ins and appointments, and some people in rural areas can seek help via their Web site, he said. The center also works with other partners throughout the state to create regional solution to the unemployment problem.
“The directors meet regularly,” he said. “We pass along information; we work to retain information about what industries are strong in what region — so we can pass along job information to those regions.”
The Workforce Center also plays a role in recruiting new businesses to Colorado, because companies that consider El Paso County for relocation look to them to provide training.
“It’s one of the unheralded jewels in the county,” said Debbie Miller, president of the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce. “The work they do is just amazing — the way they help people find jobs, find work.”
Gov. Bill Ritter’s office recently launched the CareerReady Colorado certificate program that will assist the Workforce Center with its regional efforts.
The program, which awaits legislative approval before going statewide, is a certificate-based assessment program that tests workers on various skills. Testing is supplied by the same companies that proctor the SAT and ACT college entrance examinations.
Skills are assessed in three levels: applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information. Additional levels might be added as the program moves into its first statewide phase. Three skill levels in each area are awarded: bronze, silver and gold.
The project is paid for by a grant from the Colorado Workforce Development Council. So far, 700 workers have been certified, said Donald Mares, executive director of the Department of Labor and Employment.
“Career readiness certification is an achievement that makes job seekers more competitive for higher wage jobs,” he said. “For employers, it takes the guesswork out of high stakes decisions concerning hiring and promoting. Employers who use the certificate as part of their hiring practices know they are hiring workers with the greatest potential, and, as a result, are reducing turnover and training costs for their business.”
More than 20 other states have similar certification programs.