Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - February 5, 2010

On the hunt

Hundreds seeking employment help from Tri-Valley career center

by Emily West

The Tri-Valley One-Stop Career Center is busier than ever, and staff is currently bracing for additional impact as the NUMMI plant in Fremont is set to close soon.

Pat Donovan, job developer at the career center, said many people from the Tri-Valley work at NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.) and that suppliers who depended on the Fremont plant for business may soon be out of work as well. She expects the closure to impact at least 5,000 area workers.

Just this week, a Livermore-based NUMMI supplier announced they will shut down in the spring. The closure of Johnson Controls Inc. would mean a loss of 320 jobs.

In the past six months, the career center has seen about an average of 1,300 people each month.

Currently, people are looking to be retrained as they have been unemployed anywhere from six to 14 months.

"They may not have all the skills to shine as brightly as others," she said.

California's unemployment rate was steady in November and December, with the Employment Development Department reporting at 12.4 percent and 38,800 payroll jobs decreasing. In December 2008, the unemployment rate was at 8.7 percent.

Losing a job and figuring out unemployment benefits, along with everything else, can be tricky to navigate. Tri-Valley One Stop Career Center, is there as a resource with free programs available through federal funding.

Stop by the center, located at 5020 Franklin Drive, to access computers, a fax, phones with conferencing capabilities and other equipment helpful in the application process. There are also assistance programs, career exploration software, resume templates, on-site career specialists and monthly job-search workshops.

One goal of the staff is to motivate and encourage those who have been at the job hunt for many months.

"Just sending in one resume may make the difference," Donovan said. "It only takes one."

Keeping the unemployed motivated, however, has proved to be a difficult task. Job loss isn't discriminating; it is affecting new and old workers across the board. Even those who have retired are now going back to work in order to receive more affordable medical coverage. In fact, the center's older workers workshop is the most popular group, with around 35 people in attendance.

"It's affecting everybody from 18 to 65 -- people who are looking for their first job and people with 35 to 40 years of experience," she added. "It's hitting every occupational field."

The staff at the career center is constantly re-evaluating their services to meet up with demand. After watching and listening to clients, Donovan said they have increased stress counseling services and workshops as well as one-on-one counseling for families.

Workers' concerns include trying to keep the family together as they may end up losing their home, children not understanding the situation and the frustration involved with not hearing back from employers after sending out hundreds of resumes.

One creative way for people to find work, Donovan said, is to volunteer. While working free may seem counterintuitive, she said it's a great place to network and get experience, referrals and job leads.

It may also take a change of mindset to consider temporary employment at a place like Starbucks. With decent benefits, Donovan said it's a chance to get to know people in the workforce, which is key to finding work.

"Even if you're in a part-time position, it's easier to find employment when you're working," she added. "At a place like Starbucks, you're networking and it helps to know someone on the inside."

While it may be small for those struggling to find work, Donovan said there is hope. More employers are calling the center and people are starting to be placed in new positions.

"We're here to work with employers as well," she said. "We have a great pool of highly educated people with a good work ethic. We're starting to see a turn and we're optimistic for 2010."

The Tri-Valley One Stop Career Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays. For more information on the center's programs, call 485-5262 or visit http://www.eastbayworks.com/ebw-resources/Pleasanton.htm.

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