As the number of unemployed residents in the county increases — approximately 41,000 as of November, according to the Economic Development Department —and the number of open positions decrease, a feeling of hopelessness can overwhelm job seekers.
But there is still hope and help for the unemployed, says Jeff Rowe, Workforce Development director for the Stanislaus County Alliance Worknet.
“When (unemployed individuals) come to us, it’s our job to instill hope and give them the skills to land that interview and eventually get them a job,” he said.
The Alliance Worknet’s goal is to increase employment, employment retention, and wages of Stanislaus County residents as well as helping local businesses improve their productivity and competitiveness. The Alliance also assists businesses in finding qualified employees at no cost to the business.
In 2010, the Alliance Worknet helped 2,551 people in their job searches through a variety of programs and services.
Three of the Alliance’s clients were happily at work at the newly relocated Ritzy Ragz & Things consignment shop in downtown Turlock on Tuesday.
Annette Buck was a dislocated worker who had been out of work for months before she went to the Alliance Worknet for help.
“I was out of a job for eight months and probably submitted 300 applications online and didn’t get anywhere,” Buck said.
She signed up for the Alliance’s on-the-job training program, a program that pays the salary of workers while they are training for positions at local businesses. Buck started on-the-job training at Ritzy Ragz in March 2010 and finished in August 2010, when she then became a regular employee.
Ritzy Ragz co-owner Jenn Kubala has been very satisfied with the employees she has gained through the Alliance.
“We had taken some classes from the Small Business Alliance and they had suggested the Alliance Worknet because we’re a growing business, but a small business,” Kubala said. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Employees Adriana Vazquez and Christina Whittmann started working at Ritzy Ragz through the Welfare to Work program, a program the Alliance administers in Stanislaus County.
Vazquez is now employed through the on-the-job training program and is looking forward to taking management classes offered through the Alliance.
The Alliance has programs to help dislocated workers, seasoned professionals who are finding themselves without work for the first time in years, as well as at-risk youth looking for their first jobs.
Sometimes that help comes from group networking sessions, said Adolph Lopez, Alliance Worknet program manager.
“People from like professions come to meetings and talk about tips for job searching,” Lopez said.
The Alliance also has three Career Resource Centers in the county, located in Turlock, Modesto and Oakdale, which offer job leads, unemployment insurance services, help creating resumes and information on hiring events. The Turlock office is located inside the EDD office at 125 N. Broadway. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Youth looking for jobs can also find assistance at the Alliance through a variety of programs, like the CalGRIP program. 2010 was the first year the Alliance received the CalGRIP grant, a state grant that focuses on providing youth who are at-risk of gang involvement and youth currently involved in gangs obtain employment readiness skills. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and Modesto Police Department referred individuals for the CalGRIP program. This program is scheduled to end in June, but the Alliance is in the process of renewing the grant.
For more information about youth programs available, visit www.allianceworknet.com/index-youth.php.
The Alliance also works as a safety net for small and medium sized businesses that need to expand or fill vacant positions, but are fearful of being able to afford the help.
“There are a lot of businesses out there right now wondering what’s going to happen with the economy,” Rowe said. “They need somebody; they need some help … but are a little hesitant to bring someone on not knowing what the economy is going to do.
“Our wage reimbursement programs help employers who are on the fence, we help them with additional financial support, making them get off the fence and actually hire.”
For information about the Alliance Worknet and the programs they offer, visit www.allianceworknet.com or call 558-2100.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.