Shop for a job

PERKINS TWP. It easily blends in among the other shops in Park View Plaza. In the blink of an eye, the storefront can
Janet
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

It easily blends in among the other shops in Park View Plaza.

In the blink of an eye, the storefront can be missed.

Your Job Store may seen a bit out of place, but the location really does make sense.

"We purposefully chose a storefront in a high-traffic area," said Judy Englehart, director of the Erie County Department of Job and Family Services.

The location along U.S. 250 was an easy choice.

"Pretty much everyone can make it to Wal-Mart," Englehart said. "It's pretty easy to get here ... in the shopping center, people can go shopping at Lowe's and then can come to the Job Store to shop for employment."

In some counties the Job Stores are located in the Job and Family Services building. Englehart said placing the storefront among other stores helps eliminate the notion people are walking into the "welfare office."

"We don't just serve the poor. We serve everyone," she said.

The storefront along U.S. 250 opened about seven years ago and was a new concept not only to the customers but also to the employees.

"The first day it opened, everyone was new," said Mary Aaron, the store's work force investment act supervisor. "It was something different for Judy (Englehart), myself and the staff. The volume (in the beginning) was very low ... we started advertising more, started telling people about Your Job Store ... and people started coming in. We started out with very little money. A lot of factories started to close, and services grew," she said.

Almost a decade ago, Your Job Store would assist about 50 people a week; today the store serves more than 50 people a day, Aaron said.

Rick Carson, administrator of Your Job Store's work force division, came on board about three months ago. In the last few months, Carson said the store has continued to evolve to better serve "all things for the job seekers and employers alike."

Stephanie Kowal, director of Ottawa County's Job and Family Services, said she has noticed a trend at the Job Store in Ottawa County.

"Since the Job Store opened in 2000, we've seen a rise in traffic from 1,200 visits to over 8,500 job seeker visits in a year. We've also seen steady growth in the number of businesses that utilize services of the Job Store," she said.

Services at area Job Stores, which are affiliated with North Coast Jobs, are free. Funding for the Job stores is provided by federal, state and county money. Mandated partners also share part of the cost, Carson said.

The store is considered to be a one-stop system that was originally part of the Work Force Investment Act of 1998. Work force resources have been available for a long time, but what is now available to the community took many years to accomplish.

"The goal was to make it more visible -- to make it more user-friendly," Englehart said. "This is how we finally evolved."

Your Job Store offers services for both employers and job seekers. The services can be as simple as matching a job seeker's skills to an employer's needs or as complex as helping employers and job seekers with training, small business development, referrals or resume writing.

The store's mission is to help employers and job seekers match up with the services the store provides, according to its Web site.

"The Job Store is one place where people can go to get information on job openings for the short term, and career information for longer-term planning," Kowal said. "In addition to that, community agencies can use the resources in the Job Store to help their clients with short term assistance, while working with them to plan for economic stability."

Youths, adults, dislocated workers, displaced homemakers, veterans and employers make up the area job stores' customer base. The Sandusky Career Center, EHOVE, Goodwill Industries, Erie County's Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services and Ohio's Rehabilitation Services make up the area job stores' network. The region's local Job Stores assist anyone looking for new or different employment as well as other services to area businesses. The one-stop shop offers employers access to resources for recruitment purposes, labor market trends, training and job placement programs and educational opportunities in the area.

"We're not just a job locator. If you come into this store and after we do an interview and counsel with you ... if you lack skills to go on to the next job, we can provide those skills for you. We can enable you to take that job you're looking for," Carson said.

Your Job Store was created with the hope job seekers and area businesses would find a place to successfully achieve a mutual goal for the work force in Erie County according to its Web site.

"We offer a critical piece to economic development," Englehart said. "We're part of building the future for Erie County."

Job Stores are located in every county -- Erie, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky and Seneca counties. Although all Job Stores offer the same basic services, each store is different in the material and equipment available to its customers.

"We're not a cookie cutter image of the other counties," Carson said. "The same basic core services is offered at each one of them ... but we're not exactly the same."

Kowal said the most utilized resource in Ottawa County is the customers' ability to check job postings.

"A close second would be the use of the State of Ohio job matching system to look up information on job orders. Individuals can look at matches between their skills and existing job orders, or they can look at job orders that have been publicly posted to determine if they may have the skills needed to apply for those jobs.

"Beyond those two services, the design of the Job Store and one-stop system puts information on a variety of supportive services at the hands of the customer. A large number of our customers, while they are conducting their job search, are also receiving information on utilities assistance, childcare, transportation and job training programs," Kowal said.

Englehart explained that while the Job Stores work closely together by sharing ideas, each one is tailored to the individual makeup of its county.

"Huron County is much more rural ... its employment needs are different," she said.

Officials hope more people will use the services of their county's Job Stores. All services -- including Internet access, long-distance phone calls and resume copies -- are free to everyone.

"It really is for any and everyone," Aaron said. "Customers feel very comfortable coming in."