More than just a job: SC Works Midlands equipping people for stable futures

Filing for unemployment is something staff members at the three SC Works Midlands locations can help you with – but that’s just one aspect of the countless services and resources available to people in all types of unemployment situations.

First-time job seekers or someone requiring specialized training can benefit from stopping by their nearest center. To get started, they should ask about free programs and opportunities that can help them re-enter the workforce or move up a level. Staff are specifically trained to help people land not just a new job but a place they’ll enjoy working each day.

“We’re here to find out what their barriers are and set them on a career path,” said SC Works Lexington Operations Manager Steve Knight.

One such barrier is that many who come through an SC Works center don’t realize what’s there for them to take advantage of on their quest for employment. In order to shed more light on the expansive offerings, SC Works Midlands just kicked off a new series of open house events in Fairfield. Residents, whether unemployed or not, are invited to attend the next event Sept. 10 in Lexington.

Organizers say they hope that everyone who drops by will learn something new about the numerous benefits of SC Works, the Workforce Investment Act, and the Midlands Workforce Development Board, which operates the three Midlands SC Works centers.

“This is a way for us to show people what we are all about,” said SC Works Columbia Partner Liaison Carrie Powell.

Assisting people during a time of unemployment is a crucial part of SC Works’ overall duties, but Powell said helping them find the right footing to take steps towards returning to work is even more important.

“We are truly geared toward employment and re-employment,” she said. “And we strive for good customer service.”

“Helping people break the cycle and become self-sufficient is our goal,” Knight echoed.

These days, that objective is being reached at nearly every turn. People are learning how to polish their résumés, how to dress for upcoming interviews, where to find new jobs in their field and about smart ways to manage their finances while money is tight. Powell said the most popular resources are the workshops for basic computer skills and résumés.

“Résumé writing and interviewing skills aren’t always innate and those things do evolve, so it’s important that we have those classes available,” she said.

New workshops and classes – primarily free to the public – are added each month.

“We try to bring in something fresh to expose people to new things in the working world,” Powell said.

More intensive and specific training opportunities are made possible through the multiple partnerships between SC Works Midlands and Vocational Rehabilitation, the S.C. National Guard, Midlands Technical College, DSS and many other agencies. The Goodwill relationship also is growing at a fast rate.

Giving people the chance to earn their GED or a new work skills certificate is resulting in success stories that Knight and Powell are excited to share. They recalled the example of one man who went on to start his own business after SC Works Lexington helped him link up with a federal program.

“The chances of someone coming to us and not reaching a goal is not for lack of resources,” Knight said. “There is really an unlimited amount.”

Powell agreed that even the adult education opportunities are paying dividends. She referenced another SC Works client who earned his GED; multiple employers passed him by although he had other necessary credentials, and he decided to utilize the GED workshops, finally complete his studies and better himself.

Giving dedicated workers the tools to measure their skills and communicate results to human resource managers is benefiting local employers, too. They can more easily see who is qualified for a position by accepting WorkKeys and the WorkKeys Fit Assessment, tests that SC Works can give through the onsite computers. The easy-to-understand outcomes allow employers to see who best matches up with an opening. SC Works Midlands encourages all job seekers to take WorkKeys or Fit to have a tangible representation of their skills.

Many companies already utilize SC Works Midlands to pre-screen candidates which saves both sides time and energy. Knight added that a recommendation of an employee by SC Works Midlands does mean something to the person hiring new team members.

“We can help bridge the gap between job seekers and employers,” he said. “Some of our companies actually require screening by SC Works Midlands first.”

“Improving the marketability of employees will draw more investment by companies here,” Powell added. “Employers want to find the best person possible.”

Companies with positions to fill can come directly to their local SC Works center to schedule a screening or get help with finding candidates. Job postings can also be added through the website. To have a booth at a job fair (the next is in November), companies must be hiring or hiring within the next three months.

Dozens of people come to SC Works Lexington each day, but staff members still are able to sit down one-on-one with most. Above all, the center is always full of people on their way to landing a job they can thrive in whether SC Works is helping them prepare for an interview or fill a certification gap with a free class.

“Some people come to us and don’t know which direction to turn,” Knight said. “But if they are truly willing to work, the jobs are out there. They just have to allow us to help them.”

People ages 17 and up to senior citizens have services available to them at SC Works Midlands. To learn more about re-employment resources, call your local center and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

The open house will be held Sept. 10 from 4 to 7 p.m. at 201 Duffie Drive in Lexington. The event is designed to be family-friendly and will feature activities for kids and adults. People are invited to bring their résumé to have it critiqued or simply network with SC Works Midlands partners. The event is free and registration isn’t required.