When Thomas Rosko lost his job when the Deerwood iLevel by Weyerhaeuser plant closed last year, he said more than a paycheck went with it.
When a job is gone, often a sense of identity is lost as well.
"This is what I am and now it's gone so who am I?" Rosko said.
The job loss can leave people feeling alone in a struggle to readjust their lives and plans for the future. In a struggling economy, displaced workers or those looking for help with career planning or a job change have an area resource to turn to - and most of the services offered are free.
The Brainerd WorkForce Center - one of many across the state - offers a resource room that is open to the public and provides all the tools to write resumes, research businesses and find employers who are hiring. Computers and high-speed Internet are available along with paper, stamps, a fax machine and staff assistance. If job seekers are finding it difficult to get a job, there are workshops on job searches that cover resume writing and interviewing techniques. One-on-one mock interviews allow participants to practice and learn how to answer potential questions from a prospective employer. The WorkForce Center in Brainerd offers a job search workshop every two weeks.
Sue Hilgart, team leader at the WorkForce Center in Brainerd, talked about the programs and funding designed specifically to help workers affected by layoffs or company closings. "I think what we do is a huge service to the citizens of Minnesota, the employers and the job seekers," Hilgart said. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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One of the clients at the center, a single father of three who moved to the lakes area from the Twin Cities because of family issues, found he was overqualified for most of the jobs he was interviewing for and had little success. He said the WorkForce Center helped him rethink the basics down to the suit he was wearing to interviews and gave him a better idea of the job market here.
Provides help for people who are seeking a job or want to research a career or job change.
Most services are available to anyone who needs them and at no cost.
Programs include a resource area with computers, research tools and staff assistance, workshops, career planning and others.
The Minnesota WorkForce Center System was established to provide one location for a number of federal, state and local services focused on employment services and training.
The WorkForce Centers provide assistance to employers as well through services like on-the-job training, employee retention and soft skill counseling.
For more information, go online to www.mnworkforcecenter.org or call the Brainerd office at 828-2450 or (800) 664-3595; Little Falls office at (320) 616-2400 or (800) 419-1330; Wadena office at (218) 631-7660 or (800) 417-7736.
A number of people who used the center, said one of the benefits they gained was in seeing how their skills could be transferable to a new position in a different industry.
Sue Hilgart, team leader at the center, said the resource room has experienced an increase in traffic. There are programs and funding designed specifically to help workers affected by layoffs or company closings.
"I think what we do is a huge service to the citizens of Minnesota, the employers and the job seekers," Hilgart said.
She said it gives people an opportunity to move past the grief of losing their job to think of the educational goals they had years ago or to pursue on-the-job training. A woman who lost several jobs as companies downsized, said she never knew there was such assistance for dislocated workers until recently. She said the center helped her with specific computer software skills for an office job and helped pay for her training. Beyond opportunities for on-the-job training, she said having the center meant she wasn't going through everything alone.
Tom Street, job search instructor and research room consultant, worked with a job search class at the Brainerd WorkForce Center in the Community Services Building on Laurel Street in Brainerd. The WorkForce Center offers a resource room and workshops to help anyone with a job search. The resources, including help with resumes, job searches and interviewing skills are available to the public. Most services are free. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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Stephanie Rasmussen, previously trained as a legal secretary, found out about the programs at the WorkForce Center and with a demand for nurses decided to seek the licensed practical nurse education offered by Central Lakes College in Staples. She plans to continue toward a degree as a registered nurse. She found there was help in covering the cost of her education and books. Cost for books alone was $800 for a single semester.
"My advice is to ask for help because there is help out there," Rasmussen said, saying people can feel stuck and that they can't make it, but reaching out may make a difference. "It's hard some times to let go of your pride but the help is out there."
There are definite adjustments, including a loss of higher wages and benefits, particularly when a manufacturer closes. Some people were looking at the need to get two jobs to even come close to the salary they lost. But a job loss also may be an opportunity.
Tanja Turcotte, who lost a job with Weyerhaeuser, is interested in work that will let her be outside and that could combine other passions in her life. She is interested in landscaping work or working with horses as a large animal veterinary assistant.
For Rosko, who previously worked at Potlatch, the Weyerhaeuser closing was a second blow. He said the programs at the WorkForce Center help people learn how to go about the job and career search again. He was even able to get gas coupons to help pay for a job interview in Hibbing. Rosko said the people he met at the center gave him a new way to look at how to find another job. Now, with opportunities to pursue an education, he is looking at a future as a graphic designer.
As for Rasmussen, the assistance opened a door for a profession that is actively seeking workers and offers many career options. "They've given me a fresh start at the WorkForce Center to take care of my kids and my family."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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