Career center helps residents find better jobs

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By Leslie Moore

In an effort to help more people find gainful employment, the local "unemployment office" is getting a makeover.

Now called the Kentucky Career Center, office manager Jimmy Richerson said the new name seeks to remove the negative connotations associated with the center.

Richerson said the center offers a broader scope of services than simply the distribution of unemployment benefits, and he wants the public to take advantage of them.

He said the center serves not just the unemployed, but also anyone wanting to improve their skills and pursue a better career path.

"The primary focus is to get everybody into a career they enjoy doing, they look forward to doing, and change that mentality from an unemployment office to a career center," Richerson said.

In addition to unemployment insurance claim filing assistance, services the center offers include resume building, career coaching, access to local job openings, job leads and referrals and employment services for military veterans and people with special needs.

Richerson said even job seekers who already have a resume should consider coming in and letting the center's trained staff read over it. He said a lot of people write generic resumes that don't tailor their qualifications to a specific job. He said it's critical for an applicant's resume to highlight the appropriate skills and achievements to show he or she is the best candidate.

"The other trick to it is making sure that if you don't have the specific skills, show the skills that you have and then make a transition between how that's going to make you be able to do this job," Richerson said. "And a lot of people fail to do that because you look at a lot of resumes that people put together on the templates, if you don't help them, they just stick in stuff and it really doesn't do them any favors."

Richerson said it's not unusual for companies to receive more than 100 applications for one position and the human resources department doesn't have the desire or time to carefully read through each one. If nothing jumps out at them after a minute or two, Richerson said the resume gets tossed.

The center is also equipped with two resource rooms that offer computers and free Internet access, along with a staff member trained to help each step of the way. Richerson said even individuals who have Internet access at home can benefit from the center's resource room.

"Our people are here to facilitate and help make it easier for you, so rather than spending five or 10 hours hunting for stuff, you can come in and our people can direct you right into some of the websites, and then if you have problems on the websites, they can help you," Richerson said.

At least two days a week, the center offers workshops on various steps of the employment process, from writing resumes and cover letters to helping candidates improve on soft skills such as image and conversation.

After attending a few Campbellsville/Taylor County Chamber of Commerce meetings and listening to local employers, Richerson said he has learned employers want a pool of applicants with well-developed soft skills in addition to having the necessary qualifications.

"They would much rather have somebody that is good-natured and dresses right and shows up for work on time, wants to work and then mold them and train them if they have to," Richerson said. "That's probably one of the biggest obstacles to getting into some of the entry level jobs is just some people just obviously haven't thought about the perception they give."

According to Richerson, there is also a renewed emphasis on working directly with industries and manufacturing facilities, so the center often prescreens candidates, hosts jobs fairs and makes conference rooms available for conducting interviews.

Using Kentucky's Focus Talent software, applicants are matched to available jobs using a five-star rating system. If an applicant gets three or more stars and is determined to be a candidate, Richerson said the center approves the application and employers typically interview these candidates.

"So we can get you a better percentage chance getting an interview with an employer that's put their positions into the focus system," Richerson said.

In addition to the new name, Richerson said visitors will also notice the center's simple new logo, a greater-than sign.

"It means you can be greater than you ever were," Richerson said. "It's moving forward."

According to Beth Brinly, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Workforce Investment, the re-branding of the local office is part of a statewide initiative designed by the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board to modernize the workforce development system.

Brinly said the primary focus is on placing individuals in the workplace so they can be successful contributors to the economy.

"The career centers are available to anyone interested in learning about careers," Brinly said. "The most important thing is all of the services are available free of charge to the individual customer because we're a publicly funded system."

Under KWIB's plan, dubbed WorkSmart Kentucky, Brinly said individuals eligible for assistance from vocational rehabilitation services, Office for the Blind or the Workforce Investment Act will no longer have to go to several different places to get the help they need because it is now available under one roof.

According to Brinly, partnering with these agencies helps to better focus on the customers' needs instead of their particular service.

"To the customer, it doesn't matter who provides the services as long as they get the services they need," Brinly said.

As for those individuals who want to improve their career prospects but are unsure of where to begin, Richerson said the center employs a resource navigator that can guide individuals in the right direction. Richerson said there is help available for anyone seeking to better themselves - all they have to do is come in.

"We're here to help you get into the career that you want to be in and to better yourself," Richerson said. "And if you have a bump in the road, we can help you get past it."

The Kentucky Career Center is located in Elmhurst Plaza on East Broadway and is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

For more information about the center's services, call 789-1352 or visit www.kentuckycareercenter.com.

More information is available on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KYCareerCenter and Twitter at @KYCareerCenter.