Examination of a Rural and an Urban Career Center
Rural Career Center
Rural - Visited 9/24/2013 from approximately 11:15 to 12:15
Upon entering the facility one was first struck by the openness of the environment and the couple dozen computers upon which clients can work on cover letters, resumes, and do online applications for employment. There were about 6-8 clients in the office upon our arrival. They can further use these computers to research the labor market and educational programs or to improve their computer skills by participating in regular workshops.
The center’s clientele consists of some mandated clients who are on unemployment. There is also a separate program for people between 16 and 21 (sometimes 24 depending on development delays, low SES background, or other barriers to employment) who may need summer employment, educational assistance, mentoring, or occupational skills training. An additional large population in recent years has been dislocated workers. There is special funding for people who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade and outsourcing provided by the Trade Act Program.
They are allocated the funding to offer individual training accounts (ITA’s) which provide up to 4,000 dollars toward tuition for individuals who need further education to attain their career goals. They also offer 50% wage subsidies for up to 13 weeks to employers who hire on clients who may need some time for skill development in particular job placements.
Occupational Counseling plans are devised based on individual evaluations with little use of psychometric testing. The Department of labor online assessment tool called Jobzone (an interest profiler) is sometimes used for clients who come into the center without specific career goals. The case managers assess the client’s particular needs whether it is as summary as resume help or as extensive as choosing and pursuing a new career path.
This career center served about 6,000 people last year with a staff of about sixteen people most with bachelor’s degrees and a few with master’s degrees. About 2,600 of these clients obtained jobs making an average income of about $28,000 a year. The primary source of revenue for the operating budget which totals around $1.5 million is received through the Federal Workforce Investment Act which provides $1.1 million. Smaller sources of funding come from the state and various grants which account for the other $.4 million.
The way in which the public is most made aware of the services offered at this site is by word of mouth. In addition to this; newspaper advertisements, public service announcements and outreach programs to high schools and vocational schools inform the community of services offered at this center.
The most rewarding aspects of the work done as reported by the four Career Counselors I spoke with was seeing clients achieve their educational and employment goals and being able to offer personal counseling to people experiencing loss of identity after losing their job. Giving clients an opportunity to vent their frustrations and concerns by being present with them was also expressed as a fulfilling aspect of their work.
Urban Career Center
Urban - Visited 9/24/2013 from approximately 1:45 to 2:30
Upon entering this urban career center I was struck by the volume of clients both waiting for classes and using computers. The area was very confined with two armed security guards and no one could move freely about the center without being conducted by an employee.
An extensive amount of computer skills, resume writing, financial management, and interviewing skills classes are offered on a daily basis. This use of classes to provide opportunities for skill building is a result of the volume of people served by this center. A service in which resumes are sent in, critiqued and improved, then returned to their owners is also available to clients needing minimal help.
The workers in this center are comprised of professionals employed by the state, the county, the city, and the not-for–profit CNY Works organization. The funding for the center comes from Federal and State resource as well as grant contributions. The staff in the building was estimated at about 60 people. This center, which has been in this location at its current location since 2004, attends job fairs and does presentations for other agencies in order to make themselves known to the community.
The primary client populations include the unemployed, the under-employed, and those on unemployment assistance. This latter population constitutes the majority of the clients served. This center also has programs specifically for clients age 16-21. Many of the clients are either not content with their present work situation or have been made aware that they will soon be laid-off. This center provides a translator to work with clients whose first language is not English. This service is necessitated by the multicultural background of urban areas.
When clients engage with this center for services they are entered into a state wide database which includes their vocational and educational history as well as their goals and skills. The resource room provides services to around 120 people daily. Determining the number of people served in total is made difficult when one considers the number of people attending classes in the conference rooms and engaging in other myriad services. The multiple levels of funding and the vast number of clients served made the Career Counselor interviewed unsure of the overall budget for the center and of the counseling outcome statistics.
The Psychometric instruments commonly used are found on the O*Net online resource and include Interest profiles, the Work Importance Locator (a values measurement tool), and skills surveys (which can be found on Jobzone).
A small office maintained on Salina St. employees this center’s Economist who keeps the organization abreast of local job-market trends and data. They are further informed directly by Albany via E-mail on changes taking place within large companies which will affect the labor-market. They also utilize a publication which distills newspaper information from five surrounding CNY counties and provides information on company expansions, company closings, and the effect this will have upon employment opportunities.
The counselor interviewed expressed the inherent variety of her job as one of the things she most enjoys. She also expressed her interest in people and stated that being given a chance to hear their stories as a rewarding aspect of her work. She stressed the potential she sees in all of the clients that she works with.
Concluding Remarks- Similarities and Differences
The most salient differences in the modus operandi between a rural and an urban career center seemed to be directly linked to the volume of clients served. The urban center served such a large population that our interview source could not give us even rough figures on this but the amount of activity and considerable crowd at this center suggested the servicing of many clients on a daily basis. As a result the urban center had to adopt measures that were more resource effective such as many structured classes in the place of individual service delivery.
What’s more, the inevitable frustration and hostility that accompanies high concentration interaction within cities was evident in the urban office to a much higher degree than in the rural office. This was made most conspicuous by the presence of the armed guards.
The professionals in both the rural and urban centers reported a high job satisfaction within their lengthy Career Counseling careers. They all seemed to be dedicated and respectful professionals highly motivated in their work and committed to their clients. While the population differences and differing numbers of people served necessitate some differences in how resources are provided to clients in urban versus rural settings, the primary goals, the opportunities and resources provided, and the assiduous effort to enable clients remained a consistent backdrop to the work being done at both Career Centers.