Under- or unemployed? American Job Center can help
Two weeks ago we talked about our county’s improved economy and its effects on income and unemployment. Household income rose an average of 10.7% between 2017 and 2018. Job growth between May 2018 and May 2019 provided employment to 990 people who joined our labor force that year.
As happy as I am with those numbers, I realize there are Lawrence Countians who have not benefited from them. We still have residents who are unemployed, underemployed, and drive out of this community to work. If you fit in one of those categories, I encourage you to visit the American Job Center at 702 Mahr Avenue, Lawrenceburg.
Veterans Employment Representative Misty O’Kane recently gave me an overview of the American Job Center programs and resources that are designed to meet individual needs. A short questionnaire that everyone does on their initial visit tells staff members where they need to start:
Career Advisors help you explore options based on your interests, experience, and skills, then set goals based on the kind of job and income you want. The Career Scope self-assessment reveals what jobs are best for you, areas where you might need more training, and abilities that should be featured in your resume.
A Career Specialist helps with your job search, which includes posting resumes on Jobs4TN.gov. If you need additional training, they can help you take advantage of resources including the Reconnect Grant, which covers tuition for adults attending a state community college or technical school. The American Job Center itself offers workshops on resume writing, interview skills, jobs4tn.gov navigation and basic computer skills.
Training can begin with Adult Education, which is housed in the American Job Center. The program offers reading, math, writing and high school equivalency exam preparation. We usually call that test the GED because that’s what it was for many years. Tennessee now uses the HiSET exam, which is less expensive and has several other advantages over the GED.
You could be eligible for services through the income-based WIOA, the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act program. It provides support services that help people overcome barriers to employment. Those who need to improve their education, for example, can get funding for expenses including tuition, books, childcare, and transportation.
Workforce Essentials is a program very similar to WIOA, but its participants are referred through the Department of Human Services. It requires 30 hours of participation each week, which can include job readiness programs and community service programs. All are designed to prepare enrollees for permanent employment.
RESEA, Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments, is designed to help people who are on unemployment get back to work. Candidates are chosen at random, O’Kane said, and participation is mandatory. Services include assessments, labor market information, job searches and training.
SNAP Employment & Training provides the same services as RESEA, but participation by SNAP recipients is not mandatory. Participants come to the American Job Center one day a week for assessments, training, and consultation.
TAA, Trade Adjustment Assistance, is offered to employees of a company that closes due to foreign trade. When Jones Apparel Group closed, many took advantage of this benefit to go back to school. For those who don’t want to go back to school, RTAA offers job search assistance and even funds to help family budgets bridge the gap between jobs.
As Veteran’s Employment Service Representative, O’Kane works to remove significant barriers to employment for Veterans in Lawrence, Wayne, Giles and Lewis Counties. She provides case management services to any who spent 180 days or more on active duty, including disabled veterans. Case management, she explained, includes help with problems related to housing, incarceration, age, and health in addition to employment. All Veterans receive all job placement services at the American Job Center.
The Vocational Rehabilitation program, or Voc-Rehab, provides individualized services to help persons with disabilities find employment. A representative from this program is at the local center one day a week to do assessments, counseling, guidance, training, and job placement. Voc-Rehab can also provide personal care assistance, supported employment, and transportation – whatever a person with a disability needs to support his/her employment.
The American Job Center’s Resource Center, with computers, copier, and fax machine, is available to those doing job- and school-related business. You can go there to print a copy of your school transcript, fill out school and job applications, and more.
The Mobile American Job Center is a large truck that makes all services offered in the brick-and-mortar center portable, serving 13 counties. I recently wrote about its role in our monthly Jail Job Fairs, when it’s brought to the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Department. Men and women within 30 days of their release date use its computer lab to create resumes, post them on Jobs4TN, fill out job applications and more. It’s also been used at local high schools and job fairs.
The American Job Center often hosts Job Fair events and accepts applications for employers. O’Kane said they assist employers with job orders to find qualified candidates in jobs4tn.gov. This was a service provided recently to Craig Manufacturing, which received an “overwhelming” 284 applications when it opened. Recruitment training services are available for employers to navigate www.jobs4tn.gov website.
American Job Centers are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and other state and federal partners. “These agencies are making a real effort to help people improve their lives,” O’Kane said.



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