In Texas, they’re called “WorkForce Solutions Offices.” Alaska and Wisconsin call them “Job Centers.” “Workforce Investment Network Centers” can be found in larger towns throughout Mississippi. In Indiana, “WorkOne” offices serve the state.
Whatever your federally-funded one-stop career center is called, it’s worth a visit. Here are some reasons why:
You are a tax-paying citizen
State career centers were created by the Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933 and later strengthened by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The purpose of these two acts was to bolster the existing national system of unemployment offices by reinforcing them with re-employment services. These offices became known as “one-stop” centers because in one stop, citizens could file for unemployment and utilize services designed to help them find work. But career centers are not just for folks receiving unemployment. In fact, plenty of employed people looking for better work, education, or training visit one-stop career centers every day.
The services are free!
When you consider printing costs, gas money, a newspaper subscription, and an interview wardrobe—among many other miscellaneous expenses—job searching is expensive! Why not take advantage of the free services that your tax dollars support?
Career centers provide demographic-specific support
The Workforce Investment Act delineates funds into different programs focused on getting certain groups back to work. Youth case managers arrange internships for high school students. Veteran representatives work with disabled vets to overcome their employment barriers. Dislocated and laid-off workers have special access to funds for pursuing more education and training. Networking events encourage white-collar workers to expand their rolodex, and elderly clients can earn placement at a partnering community agency through senior-workers initiatives.
Access to funding/training programs
Many states now incorporate their adult basic education efforts into their workforce development agencies. If you don’t have your GED—and don’t know where to start— odds are your one-stop career center can help. Career centers often employ academic counselors to guide clients through the arduous financial aid process of post-secondary education. These counselors can also help secure federal and state funds available for people who pursue certain occupational certifications and degrees (generally those in fields that are growing or in-demand). Increasingly, community colleges are collaborating with state workforce agencies to provide industrial and technical training programs for blue-collar workers.
The majority of career centers offer free workshops on topics that run the gamut from basic computer skills and interview techniques to cover letters and using social media for self-marketing.
More people on your team
In many ways, a job search is a numbers game. You might apply to one hundred jobs before you get one interview. You could get lucky on the first interview, but chances are you’ll have a dozen. You’ll also need multiple versions of your cover letter—and two or three targeted resumes—before you find the right opportunity for you.
When you visit a one-stop career center, not only do you receive services and resources to enhance your job search, you meet invested and knowledgeable people: workshop facilitators, unemployment specialists, and case workers. The more people on your team, the better.
Every state’s one-stop career center is unique in its structure and the services it provides. More information can be found at your state’s official website, but you’ll learn more—and get started sooner—by visiting one today.
Ashley Cook is a Community Employment Associate and Case Manager at a one-stop career center in the Midwest, where she provides intensive—and free!—services to people with employment and training needs. She is also a freelance writer. You can see more of her work at www.ashleyecook.org.