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October 1, 2008 > Union City to roll out workforce development program

Union City to roll out workforce development program

By Simon Wong

The Human Relations Commission (HRC) and the Economic Development Department (EDD) have joined forces to develop and roll out a career advisory and consultancy program for the City's residents.

While the initial brief from the HRC was to find ways of helping young people to enter the workforce, as part of Youth Violence Prevention and Intervention, the EDD has drafted plans for a full-blown service that will be available to all of the City's residents, regardless of age, work experience, field and career progression. There will be no cost to participants.

Although it will be in the client's best interests to attend as much of the program as possible, participants will have the flexibility to select the workshops that match their needs. Clients may include youth who are graduating from high school, at-risk youth, college-students looking for a first job in their chosen field, stay-at-home mothers, who wish to return to the workforce because their children are more independent and six-figure-salaried professionals and executives whose jobs were eliminated. Classes will be tailored for each client type.

The Program will consist of three components: Skills Workshops, Behavioural/Lifestyle Workshops and an Annual Job Expo.

The Skills series comprises workshops that will equip job seekers with the tools to identify and evaluate what they wish to do, locate jobs and submit effective applications. For instance, Choosing a Career will provide advice and guidance on career choice or changing career. Clients will see what is appropriate for them and their available options. Other classes include Where are the Jobs? How to Build a Resume, Creating Cover Letters and Networking to Find a Job.

There will be seminars specifically for Youth with direction to opportunities available through the many training programs that exist. Union City attracts biotech companies to the area. This sector is poised for substantial growth and expansion over the next five to ten years and will face a shortage of skilled workers. Entry-level jobs not only in biotech but also in manufacturing will require some sort of post-high school education.

Transitioning from School to Work is targeted at high school seniors and college students and is available to both youth and adults. Some adults return to education for personal and professional development and need to re-enter the workforce or wish to change direction on completing their studies.

What Employers Expect, How to Contact Employers and Be Professional are also part of the Skills series of workshops. Be Professional explains how to make the right impression with a prospective employer. In short, although appearance matters, attitude and how people carry and present themselves are equally important.

Human Resources professionals from Union City companies will be available to conduct mock interviews with participants as part of the Workforce Development Program. The reality of the experience will better prepare the job seekers for interviews that they attend later.

An array of interview-and-selection processes exists. They range from simple one-on-one meetings to batteries of interviews and tests, informal and formal. Introduction to Interview Types alerts job applicants to this.

"It's important that people understand that there are many techniques that may be employed. This will empower them to get through the interview process. What's vital is the ability to identify skill sets even though the interviewee might not have much experience. Being able to deliver that message to a potential employer is crucial," explained Christine Friday, Economic Development Department, Union City.

Periodic Matchmaking Workshops will be arranged. These will take the form of a small Expo at which job seekers, who have completed the curriculum, can present their resumes to recruiting Union City employers for consideration and see if there are potential matches.

The Behavioural/Lifestyle series of workshops are key. They may be the starting point for change especially for at-risk youth and youth. Managing emotions and coping with stress in the workplace is important.

Young people joining the workforce often become disillusioned. They develop a sense that there is no advancement from an entry-level job. Continuing Education will raise their awareness of the importance of remaining employed, on-the-job training and further external education to improve prospects. This workshop will also teach them how to manage these opportunities. The Workforce Development Program emphasizes the value of ongoing education.

Employers have repeatedly identified the need for a developed workforce as a priority when relocating to an area. Union City already has such a population but employers would like to see even more well- and better-qualified applicants.

Getting Along at Work and Living on Your Own are part of this series.

Financial Planning will teach clients how to manage their income. This is important for people at every stage of working life. The message is that sound financial planning will yield future dividends. "VP Commercial, Wells Fargo, has agreed to run these workshops and they have some great tools," Ms Friday informed the HR Commission.

Budget Management essentially teaches house-keeping skills. What expenses are associated with a household? Which are fixed and which are variable? Which are seasonal? Who pays for what? Who organizes what? Renting vs buying.

Leadership Development and Teamwork Development are the two remaining classes in the Behavioural/Lifestyle series.

"Resources to deliver the Workforce Development Program are available at no cost to the City. One-Stop Career Centers will partner. The Employment Development Department has resources available for our use. EOC has a wonderful Youth Work Program and will also participate to help deliver our Program. EOC professionals are administrative judges, district attorneys... The regional district attorney recently presented to local employers at a very large workshop organised by the City. The event was a great success. An administrative judge also delivered training to manage sexual harassment to our employers. These seminars are offered free," explained Christine Friday.

"Community colleges and universities always have staff willing to assist with these types of workshops. Of course, there are Union City employers, who have been very supportive of past programs, and wish to be associated with this initiative. They are large employers such as manufacturing, high-tech and biotech. All are keen to participate," Ms Friday continued.

The last component of the Workforce Development Program is an Annual Union City Job Expo which will be a grander version of the Matchmaking Workshop in the Skills series. "We would inform the public that employers have this number of vacancies and types of openings and set up the event to attract residents to apply for these types of positions. One of the Program's goals is to encourage more residents to work locally. Marketing and publicity are not foreseen as problems," explained the City's Economic Development Manager.

"With these programs I think we can address most people's needs. Some will need more support and direction than others. At this stage, workshops will last for either one-and-a-half or two hours. Local companies have generously agreed to our use of their training and conference rooms as venues," concluded Ms Friday.

The City's HRC will assist the Economic Development Department to establish outreach with organisations that specifically deal with Youth. Training rooms are subject to availability. Dates, times and class durations that are convenient for the Program's target audiences and the time frame for rollout will be discussed further with the Commissioners.

At the moment, the plans are in draft form with pledges of support and agreed involvement of instructors from local employers, State and Federal agencies. The Union City Workforce Development Program is expected to be available in January 2009.

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