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Helping Job Seekers Get One Step Ahead

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PCC’s one-stop Capital Career Center is a regional leader in implementing new federal work force legislation.

Lauren Anderson, much of her adult life a stay-at-home mom, turned to PCC’s Capital Career Center to help her get through very tough times. Anderson, who has two children, is in the middle of a divorce and needs a good-paying job.

Her attorney recommended the Capital Career Center and so each day Anderson makes the trip from her Southwest Portland home to western Washington County. "I’m forcing myself to be in a routine," she says. "It’s good practice."

That accomplishment, plus arranging for child care, being on time, and making small but significant skill gains during her spring and summer career prep classes have given Anderson hope that she might achieve her goal. She’s now hard on the job-search track for the seemingly elusive high-paying job. Anderson holds a degree in German literature and dreams of ultimately heading back to college to become a teacher. But for now, it’s one step at a time.

"Yes, I can make baby steps," she says emphatically. "This setting helps you succeed incrementally. It gives you enough self-value to succeed and feel confident. I give a lot of credit to this program."

Although Anderson’s particular scenario may differ from fellow students who have been laid off of jobs, she and others at the career center are all acquiring new skills and a boost in self-confidence.

Dislocated workers Sue Johnson of Banks and Connie Smith of Beaverton, like Anderson, have taken Windows, Word and Excel computer classes. They have also completed career exploration, resume writing and interviewing workshops. Johnson got laid off when the lumber company where she worked was sold, and Smith lost her 10-year job at a circuit board shop when the company moved back to Japan. Both plan to become bookkeepers and have been referred by the career center to PCC short-term training programs.

The PCC Capital Career Center, which opened in January 1998, is the product of a federal Department of Labor effort begun in 1994 to reorganize government training and employment services to work more closely together and present one face to the public. It is part of a "one-stop" system – so called because a number of state agencies co-locate to serve job seekers more effectively. The PCC center is the lead agency for Washington County. It served approximately 1,200 people in the past fiscal year through its programs and resource room, which is a combination labor-market library and computer center open to the public.

Partner agencies on site include Adult and Family Services, the Oregon Employment Department, the Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation Division, Senior Mobility Services, Veterans Services, and the PCC programs, Dislocated Workers Project, Steps to Success (welfare to work), and Building Futures, a training program for low-income adults.

Julie Wyckoff-Byers, director of PCC’s Capital Career Center, says, "What we are striving for is a seamless work force delivery system for job seekers and employers that draws upon the strengths of all partner agencies."

Wyckoff-Byers and the Washington County partners had been laying the groundwork for the transition to a comprehensive one-stop career system in Washington County for several years. By the time Congress officially signed the Workforce Investment Act in August 1998, the organizational partners had been on site at PCC serving clients since January.

"The Capital Career Center is the most comprehensive and fully developed of the career centers in Washington County," explained Wykoff-Byers.

She detailed some of the services. "People from the community can use the resource room for job leads. There are computers hooked up to the employment department with book markers to job search sites. Faxing is free. Job seekers can use word processing software for employment applications, and there is a typing tutorial that is self-paced."

Six one-stop career training centers have been established in Multnomah, Washington and Columbia counties – all part of the new system – and are in various stages of development. The college is the lead agency only in Washington County. However, PCC has had a hand in the formation of each site, particularly the one-stop center at Southeast Works, a community-based organization serving Southeast Portland.

Wyckoff-Byers believes the commitment to making it easy for people to connect with employers and prepare for new jobs has paid off. "All of the partners laid the foundation over several years. We applied early for grant money to pilot the Department of Labor’s initiative. With this many partners and the cross training that is needed, it made it a complex undertaking."

"It is gratifying," she continued, "to work together to develop a good system and provide good services. The fact that we have the partners here at the center works very well for the people who come in."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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