Like many of you, this past year required WorkSource Colville to adapt and change how we served our communities in Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, and Stevens Counties. Our team shifted to a remote work environment in March of 2020 and successfully enrolled new participants, assisted businesses, and supported job seekers. The challenges of working remotely were amplified by the lack of affordable broadband and poor access to the internet outside of populated areas. The local county library resources have been extremely helpful to job seekers and participants.
As our world transitioned to virtual meetings, we continued to adjust the way we do things to provide service to the businesses and job seekers in the counties we serve. One example of this is our annual Spring Job Fair. Because we could not meet in-person due to COVID-19 restrictions, we hosted our first Virtual Job Fair in February 2021. Through a partnership with WorkSource Spokane, 38 employers participated. This allowed job seekers in remote areas to speak with recruiters and view jobs without leaving their homes. By partnering with WorkSource Spokane, businesses in our local community had an opportunity to connect with a larger audience, providing the potential to recruit new candidates to the area.
With more eyes on the virtual environment, our office sends weekly job update emails to individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits. We also include local partners or community-based organization’s updates and resources as well. These emails are county specific and feature job links based on a claimant’s location. It also provides an opportunity to highlight resources available to displaced workers looking to start a new career.
The Dislocated Worker Program provides opportunities through Occupational Skills Training (OST) and On-the-Job Training (OJT). Recent OST participants have enrolled in Welding, Industrial Manufacturing and Technology, Early Childhood Education, Cyber Security, Dental Hygienist, and Pharmacy Technician programs in our local community colleges, as well as attending school to earn a Commercial Driver’s License and to become a Home Inspector licensed through the State of Washington. The Dislocated Worker Program pays for tuition, books, and other required fees. Participants may also qualify for additional support services such as gas vouchers, car repairs, work clothing, etc. This is a great opportunity for someone to attend school, sometimes fully online, and learn a new career all while continuing to receive their unemployment benefits if they qualify.
Participants enrolled in the On-the-Job Training (OJT) program are retrained in a new career while earning a wage, and employers are reimbursed 50% of the new employee’s wages during a designated training period creating a win-win situation for everyone involved. All required paperwork must be in place before the first day of employment. Recent OJT participants have been trained in new careers such as: Legal Assistant, Accounting Specialist, Appraiser, Driller’s Helper, Sous Chef, and at local sawmills in positions as an Oiler, Chip Tender, and Log Sorter, just to name a few. Like the Occupational Skills Training participants, these new employees may also be eligible for support services. The goal of both programs is to increase job skills and assist unemployed and/or displaced workers in becoming self-sufficient.
While our world, work environments, and demand for new careers continue to change, it is more important than ever for unemployed workers to think about what they want to do in their next career. There is an abundance of opportunity to go back to school, learn a new career on the job, or begin self-employment. For more information on the programs and services listed above, please contact WorkSource Colville at (509) 685-6158.