The One-Stop Career Center: A Resource For Job Seekers

by Marjorie Hendrickson

Federal, state, and local governments as well as not-for-profit agencies offer many services to assist individuals and businesses. In the past, each individual needed to find out about services and then wend his/her way through the bureaucratic maze filling out reams of paperwork during multiple intake and eligibility sessions. From an agency perspective, services were underused or were duplicated due to the lack of lines of communication between agencies. Businesses who needed to find employees with specific skills or assistance in retraining current employees faced the same bureaucracy and duplication of effort.

In 1998, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) legislation replaced the Job Training Partnerships Act. WIA created new structures to streamline services and reduce duplication as well as meet increased federal and state accountability guidelines. Agencies delivering specific services were mandated to partner with each other at one location - thus the One-Stop Career Center, a delivery system for the provision of career services was created. A required component for each local area is a Youth Council to address services for youth ages 14 - 21.

WIA legislation encouraged the development of local structures and policies determined by local Workforce Investment Boards. Consequently although all local One-Stop Career Centers have certain common elements, they may look and conduct business very differently. Agency partnership, customer service, customer choice and efficiency of service delivery are required goals. There is "no wrong door"; partner and other community agencies are available on-site to make and receive referrals for services to assist job seekers in overcoming barriers to self-sufficient employment. This benefits both employers and job seekers who are the customers of each one-stop system.

Three levels of job seeker services are mandated: Core, Intensive, and Training Services. The philosophy behind this division is that not all individuals require the same level of services to achieve success.

Core services are available to all customers and are essentially self-service. Some examples of core services include initial assessment, career-related workshops, resource rooms with computers, fax machines and phones, staff assisted job search, access to labor market information, and assistance in applying for services offered by partner agencies. This self-service option saves program dollars to focus on those job seekers who need more services to find sustainable employment.

Intensive Services are available to those who need additional assistance. Registration and meeting locally determined eligibility criteria are required. Intensive services may include individual career counseling and career planning, comprehensive assessment of skills and service needs, and development of an individual employment plan.

Training services can be offered to job seekers who need an upgrade of skills to obtain sustainable employment. Training can be On-the-Job Training (OJT) provided by an employer who agrees to hire and upgrade the job seeker's skills to required levels; it can also be entrepreneurial training, job readiness training, and literacy training. Classroom training by locally approved training vendors can be provided if it is a suitable skills upgrade for the individual to find employment in a demand occupation.

Each local One Stop is monitored and held accountable to assist job seekers in finding sustainable employment. Performance indicators include the number of job seekers employed and the wage achieved. Secret shoppers grade customer service and provide a report to guide each One Stop in modifying policy and practices for continuous quality improvement. Customer satisfaction is tested with random market research phone calls.

Currently, Congress is reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act legislation. Changes are expected to fine tune the system and improve performance in career services delivered to both job seekers and businesses.

Marjorie Hendrickson has a Master's Degree in Career Development from the College of New Rochelle. Currently the Co-Chair of the NCDA Career Development Facilitator Advisory Council, she co-authored with Elaine Andaloro, "The Workforce Development Resource Guide for the NCDA CDF Curriculum". Her experience includes career counseling at two and four-year colleges, adult education programs as well as projects for business and industry. She is the Senior Career Counselor at Dutchess Works One-Stop Employment and Training Center. She can be reached at almargenccc@earthlink.net.

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