More than 300,000 North Carolinians are still out of work. Among the best kept secrets for helping them get back into the workforce are community colleges.
All 58 community colleges have some form of workforce continuing education courses, says Barbara Boyce, associate vice president for workforce continuing education for the N.C. Community College System.
But some job seekers are not aware of the free courses.
Rena M. Ferraro, the interim director for Human Resources Development for Wake Tech Community College, says she often hears, I wish I had of known about your program sooner, or I didnt know Wake Tech had this program.
Ferraro said that partner groups such as the states JobLink centers and the Division of Workforce Solutions know about the community college programs, but the message isnt always getting to those who need it.
That may change soon. In February, any person filing a new unemployment claim for benefits will have to present a photo ID in a face-to-face meeting at an employment office within four weeks of receiving his or her first check. In the past, claimants could receive benefits without ever reporting to an office.
Assistant Commerce Secretary Dale Folwell, who heads the Division of Employment Security, said theres been a growing number of fraudulent claims by people using someone elses name or Social Security number.
The division is responsible for collecting money and sending checks, while the Division of Workforce Solutions is tasked with helping claimants find employment. So when claimants report to an employment office with their identification, counselors will be available to help them with their work search.
Ferraro also is reaching out to churches and trying to figure out how to communicate with stay-at-home spouses or residents who may not be tech savvy.
As Ferraro makes those adjustments, she has tweaked the courses. I didnt feel that some of the classes addressed what was in the current job market.
She felt job seekers needed help devising a better strategy to get around the artificial intelligence that pre-screens resumes and more instruction about completing online applications.
For instance, she said many people put down basic information on a job application and save the meat for the resume without realizing that many employers wont review a resume if they arent impressed by the application.
The college also talked with local employers to find out what type of workers and experience they needed. That led to some bundled courses that combine studies in a specific training area with job searching skills.
One such bundle is for customer service. It splits students into two groups: those who want to work at call centers and those interested in working in retail at a store. At the early stages of the course, all participants will attend classes. The program even has a stress management course included as a way of giving participants tools to deal with unhappy customers.
Tony Zarcone, workforce development coordinator for Wake County Human Services, is excited about the program. People can come in and really start a career, he said. They can learn and grow. Its great for people who dont have a lot of experience or formal education.
Lacy can be reached at RIFworker@gmail.com or follow on Twitter @RIFworker