Lacy: Community colleges take stock, make changes to help unemployed

CorrespondentJanuary 25, 2014 

Students walk outside after their 10 a.m. class on the first day of class at the Northern Wake Tech campus on Friday, August 16, 2013 in Raleigh. This year Wake Tech has a record 21,000 students enrolled.

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  • Wake Tech classes

    Here’s a sampling of some of the community college’s new classes:

    • “Resume to the Interview and the Steps In-Between”: A short course designed with an online focus to help applicants get past the computer programs that scan resumes and applications. It covers crafting resumes, performing job searches, filling out applications and interviewing skills.

    • “Microsoft’s Digital Literacy Standards”: A short course is a jump-start for those needing some tech basics: computer and Internet basics, productivity programs, computer security and privacy and digital lifestyles. The course, designed by Microsoft, is broken down in three hour intervals for a total of 15 hours.

    • 16-hour classes in technology and social media including “Google+ Basics for Job Hunters;” “How to Create Social Media Content for Employment” and “ePortfolio for Job Hunters.”

    For information about Wake Tech’s HRD courses:

    For more information about Wake Tech’s Back to Work Program:

  • For Durham students

    Mary F. Moore, program director for HRD/Workforce Development at Durham Technical Community College, has been responding to the changing needs of workers by partnering with the economic and workforce development community of local government and nonprofit agencies, including Durham Continuum of Care, Orange Project Connect, Durham Economic Resource Center, Durham Rescue Mission and the Council to End Homelessness, to assist clients with workforce re-entry.

    She suggests job seekers, check out:

    • “Linked In and Beyond,” taught by longtime instructor Mike Komives. He’s noted for saying. “The key to networking is simple: You know someone I don’t; and I know someone you don’t.”

    • “Job Search Strategies for Mature Professionals.” This class helps older job searchers identify and address negative stereotypes to redirect the focus from age to skills. The class design emphasizes networking, which helps students overcome their fears.

    • “Job Seeking Skills Workshop”: A fast-paced course that provides a clear understanding of the reality of the new job market, and current trends in workforce development.

    For more information:

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 didn’t know Wake Tech had this program.”

Ferraro said that partner groups such as the state’s JobLink centers and the Division of Workforce Solutions know about the community college programs, but the message isn’t 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 there’s been a growing number of fraudulent claims by people using someone else’s 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 didn’t 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 won’t review a resume if they aren’t 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. It’s great for people who don’t have a lot of experience or formal education.”

Lacy can be reached at or follow on Twitter @RIFworker


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