Unemployment numbers have been decreasing slightly, the Great Recession is technically over and things are starting to look up in most places, though the recovery is not happening as quickly as most people would prefer.
But the national or even local unemployment numbers mean very little to a person who is still struggling to find work. Or to the person who worked up to a certain salary for 25 years, lost his job and is now taking any job at all in an attempt to make ends meet.
In other words, people are still looking for jobs, and the task can seem daunting.
The good news is, there are local programs available to bring employers and potential employees together, and those programs are getting easier to access.
During the spring, the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, the Southern Maryland Workforce Investment Board and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation took its Mobile Career Center on the road. The mobile unit is a 38-foot work center that looks a lot like a commuter bus on the outside, but inside houses a number of tools to help people with their job searches. There are 11 computer work stations, SMART Boards, satellite Internet access for the times that broadband is out of reach — which occurs frequently in Southern Maryland — and broadcasting capabilities.
The money for the work center came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which makes sense because it's ARRA money being used to help people find jobs.
In a time when so many people are looking for work, this kind of investment seems like one that will pay off. A one-stop career center already exists at 175 Post Office Road in Waldorf, but the county's geography means that you can be in Charles County yet still be quite far away from that center. A mobile center might make a difference for someone who can't easily get to Waldorf. Also, the center will be accessible at other events, like the county fairs in September, and will be seen by folks who might not have thought about using DLLR's services before.
Eric Franklin, the vice chairman of the Workforce Investment Board, told a Southern Maryland Newspapers reporter last week when the mobile center was unveiled in Prince Frederick (the unit had it debut in Charles County in March) that thousands of residents have used the organization's career services since July 2009, and that a large percentage has reported finding employment afterward. Numbers like that show that job seekers are taking advantage of the state's services.
The job market is slowly improving, but in the meantime those who need a little more assistance should check out the new services. The business leaders who are involved in the programs assure us that they are making a difference.