OXFORD — Reports show that the number of available jobs is slowly increasing, but that does not mean that getting one of them is easy.
The Chester County Workforce Investment Board is trying to help by offering a number of programs as part of its Road To Employment initiative.
One of those programs is 12 Steps Toward Employment, a free workshop funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, for the unemployed and underemployed, including recent college graduates.
"We started two years ago in churches and then the County Workforce Investment Board picked it up last fall and we've done probably 35 of them all together," said program presenter Casey Jones.
The latest session of 12 Steps Toward Employment was held Nov. 17 at the Oxford Presbyterian Church.
The four-hour workshop is designed to aid job seekers in developing an employment search plan. It also provides information about the many primarily free resources available to assist in obtaining and retaining employment.
The 12 steps outlined by Jones help people follow a clear path in job seeking with each step containing resources they can use to help move forward. The program does not directly connect people with jobs
but it helps to give them tools to find positions on their own.
"They really need to develop a written plan and a structured plan as to how they are going to go about getting a job. Many people are out doing this or that or something else but they don't really have an overall focus on how it all goes together," Jones said.
The workshops are targeted at all segments of the job-seeking population in all ages, experiences and education levels. Continued...
"People that were middle income and upper income are being adversely impacted in a greater degree than in the prior times," Jones said. "The curriculum that I developed was really much broader so that it applies to anybody."
Because people are being unemployed longer, there are extra stresses that make the job search more challenging.
"We try to redirect them and get them moving in a good direction and also provide the resources that are going to help them in that," Jones said. "We try to instill hope in the system and try to get them refocused."
Jones points out that getting a job does not mean keeping that job, so the plan has to continue after the hire.
"Statistics indicate a significant number of people are separated from service anywhere from a week to a year afterward and so they have to start that process all over again. We try to minimize that," he said. "Underneath all that, there are resources for everyone in those 12 steps that we try to provide to people to start, and how to use each one of those to go to the next step in the job search process."
Jones said the obvious approach of putting in applications online to find a position only results in 2 percent of all hires. Add to that the jobs that are readily identifiable in 'help wanted' ads and you get to 20 percent.
"The 'underground market' is what I concentrate on — a lot of that is reached through networking," he said.
Jones offers hope.
"Yes, there is a constriction within the job market, but in August it was reported 2.7 million jobs were available in the U.S. and that has increased. In September that increased to 3.4 million open positions. That's the most since the recession started three years ago," Jones said. "We try to put some hope into the process."