Sunday, April 27, 2003

Job bank wants to boost visibility

New location, reorganization pondered to aid people who want to work

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County's one-stop center, which matches employers with job seekers, could do a lot better if it were better organized and in a more visible location, according to an internal evaluation.

The Southwest Ohio Career Resource Network - as the one-stop center is called - placed 981 people in jobs last year. That's 11.5 percent of the 8,550 people who went there for help.

"We all agree it's not working that well," County Commissioner John Dowlin said. "We need to do a better job of finding people who need work and marrying them with the employer who needs people."

One-stop centers are supposed to combine everything the job seeker might need, from information on vocational training to resume help to leads on available positions. The service is free for anyone looking for a job, whether that person already had one or not.

One-stops were mandated by the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998 - an initiative that Ohio was among the slowest states to embrace. The act also called for regional cooperation, but the Cincinnati-Hamilton County board's efforts to bring in Butler, Warren and Clermont counties were rebuffed.

Officials with the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the Southwest Ohio Workforce Policy Board want to move the center from Roselawn to a state-owned building at 1916 Central Parkway.

"The goal is to move downtown, where the core of the unemployment is for Hamilton County," said Dowlin, the county's representative on the Workforce Policy Board.

The current location, on the third floor of an office building at 1811 Losantiville Ave., hasn't proved to be visible or convenient enough, according to Sherry Kelley Marshall, a chamber executive on loan to the board.

It also doesn't have space, she said, for most of the 19 partners that one-stops are required to have on-site, including technical schools, veterans services and elderly services.

Marcella Rutherford of North Avondale, however, said she likes the current location. With the help of the one-stop, this mother of three has gotten five interviews and one job offer in about a month of looking.

Officials also want to have the Workforce Policy Board assert more control over the one-stop's operation and hire an executive director.

Texas-based Affiliated Computer Systems was hired a little more than a year ago to run the center, but it was given too much responsibility, Marshall said. It has about 30 employees at the Losantiville office and four satellite one-stop locations.

"Somebody has to manage the policy stuff, and they have to be separate from the people who manage the physical facility," she said.

The center also needs a stronger identity, perhaps in part by changing its unwieldy name, Marshall said. "People go look for the one-stop, and they don't find anything called 'one-stop.' "

The business community has been active in developing the one-stop center. Former Procter & Gamble CEO John Pepper is on the board, as are representatives of Kroger, P&G and other companies.

"We don't want to lose companies because we don't have the people to do the work they need done," Marshall said. "Creating a system that links (job-seekers with job openings) is what we've got to do if we're going to keep the economic vitality of the region."


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