Monday, December 1, 2014

American Job Centers: Not Just the Old "Unemployment Office"

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog 

I’m sure you’ve heard of unemployment offices. But are you familiar with American Job Centers? If you’re like most job seekers I know, you probably haven’t. But unemployment offices and American Job Centers are the same thing. With the pervasiveness of online unemployment insurance filing, many laid-off individuals don’t visit their local American Job Center. More than 2,000 American Job Centers, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, are located throughout the United States. These centers offer completely free career and employment-related help, courtesy of Uncle Sam, to job hunters, the unemployed, laid-off workers, and anyone seeking to improve his or her career prospects.


No matter what they call themselves, American Job Centers seem to be increasingly using this graphic identifier. [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
No matter what they call themselves,
American Job Centers seem to be increasingly
using this graphic identifier.

Part of the reason I think most job seekers are unfamiliar with American Job Centers is a lack of branding and promotion and the fact that different states may call their centers something other than American Job Centers. Many of these centers were known as One-Stop Career Centers. But within the last couple of years, I think in an effort to more clearly identify and unify all the One-Stop Career Center services, the U.S. Department of Labor changed the name to American Job Centers.
Yet many states call their unemployment/reemployment offices by other names, including—stillOne-Stop Career Centers, Career One-Stop Centers, CareerOneStop, or some variation. Other states use completely different identifiers, such as WorkOne in Indiana, CareerSource in Florida, and Michigan Works in Michigan. The centers often append a geographic identifier to the name, such as CareerSource Central Florida. Within some other states, the American Job Centers are each called by a different name with no unifying thread. Recently the U.S. Department of Labor sought input on the American Job Center name from the workforce development system, so perhaps the name will change yet again!
    I tell you all this so that you know that these useful centers are the same entity, no matter where you live in the U.S. and no matter where you may move to in the U.S. Interestingly, although American Job Center is the official name, the U.S. Department of Labor still defines them as “One-Stop Career Centers” in the following definitions, found at www.careeronestop.org, of the two types of centers:
    • Comprehensive One-Stop Career Centers provide a full array of employment and training related services for workers, youth and businesses. 
    • Affiliate One-Stop Career Centers provide limited employment and training related services for workers, youth, and businesses. 
    Basically this means you’ll get more career and job search services at a comprehensive center than at an affiliate center. Before I go on, let me list the types of employment services and other help available from American Job Centers. Keep in mind that the services vary by location but can include the following:

    • State unemployment insurance information
    • State job bank access
    • Resource room with free phones and computers with Internet access
    • Job training information
    • Resume and job search assistance 
    • Employment workshops
    • Career counseling
    • Skills testing and other career-related assessments
    • Labor market information
    • Employer information
    • Job fair and hiring event information
    • Job clubs
    • Supportive services (which can include information about food stamps, financial assistance, Medicaid, child care, and emergency funds)
    Comprehensive American Job Centers often offer specific programs for certain populations, such as youth and military veterans.

    The number of American Job Centers has shrunk over the years in response to less federal funding and consolidation. During the federal budget sequestration, some job centers ironically laid off the very staff members tasked with helping laid-off workers.

    Most centers are open only during regular Monday through Friday business hours, so if you are currently working or have other workday responsibilities, it may be difficult for you to visit your local operation. The quality of service at American Job Centers, no matter what they’re called, varies widely. Many are professional, helpful, and efficient, and others are less so, based on my personal experience, the experiences of people I know, and comments on social media. At American Job Centers, you are usually considered a customer, and the staff should treat you as such.

    To help laid-off workers better connect with American Job Center services and get back to work faster, many states require these unemployed individuals to come into a local office for a Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA), during which a staff member may review the individual’s job search efforts, provide information on the center’s services, make sure the individual is registered with the state’s job bank, refer the person to local labor market information, provide skills testing, make career training referrals, and help the individual develop a job search plan. REAs are also designed to cut down on unemployment insurance fraud, so if you are called in for an REA, you must go or risk losing your unemployment insurance benefit.

    No matter where you are in your job hunt or career, it’s worth checking out your nearest American Job Center. Consider participating in a workshop on job searching, resume writing, or using social media in the job hunt. Also look into interviewing and networking workshops, which may be especially helpful for shy people and introverts. Ask about career counseling and career assessments if you aren’t sure what you want to do. The price is right, and you have nothing to lose.

    Have you recently visited an American Job Center? If so, please share how it went.

    2 comments:

    1. As a staff person at one of these career centers, I want to thank you for sharing the value of the services provided at career centers. I was very interested in linking to this blog post until I read that "unemployment offices and American Job Centers are the same thing." Here in California, the Employment Development Department (California's unemployment insurance provider) has such a reputation for bureaucracy and poor customer service that many of the one-stops I've interacted with strive to distance themselves from EDD. Granted, some EDD services are mandated to be made available in the one-stop centers, but the two systems operate in parallel rather than as a single entity or focused collaboration (to the detriment of the customers, in some cases).

      And regardless of the confusion created by the weak re-branding efforts (don't get me started!), your assessment is true that free or low-cost resources are available to job seekers that have potential to be of great value to those out of work and seeking re-employment. Visit servicelocator.org to search the national database of career centers.

      ReplyDelete
    2. Thank you for your insights and for the clarification. Do you think WIOA will improve collaboration between one stops and the UI program? Please see the post here: http://www.careeractionresources.com/career-action-blog/integrating-ui-programs-into-one-stops.

      Thanks again for reading.

      ReplyDelete