This place is a lot more than an unemployment office.
Linda Rouse, operations director for the IowaWorks Ottumwa Center, talked proudly about the new building, the attitude of her staff and the services that are available to both job seekers and employers.
Their grand opening open house Thursday was for members of the community, employers and job seekers to see some of the resources available at IowaWorks. The center is at 15260 Truman St., on the Indian Hills Community College North Campus, located near the Ottumwa Regional Airport.
Maybe you took a language course all through high school and know that a second language could be a selling point in a customer service job but consider yourself too rusty.
Rouse said the center has Rosetta Stone, a highly regarded language-learning software. The computers are along one wall and don’t require membership in the center. They’re free for the public.
If you don’t know how to use a computer, however, she tells members of the public the center has that covered, too. The idea is to be a resource that gets workers to work.
“We have free computer training five days a week — and an excellent teacher,” Rouse said.
J.R. Beamer, an Iowa Workforce veterans representative, focuses on those who have served their country. Despite all the positives they have to offer, veterans of recent wars are unemployed at a higher rate than the general population.
His job, he said, is to help veterans overcome obstacles so they can find a job that’s a good fit.
He has tools available to help, from training opportunities to a new program designed to help more employers give veterans a chance to work.
Teresa Sloan, an Iowa Workforce advisor, said the services she provides for job candidates cost nothing more than a bus ride and an investment of time.
Which works out well, she agreed, because while unemployed, a job seeker may have more time than money.
“Wouldn’t that be a great time to brush up on those skills?” Sloan asked.
Sloan helps run InterviewStream. While it can help employers narrow down a pool of applicants, the fun part of the job for her seems to be helping potential employees practice their interview skills.
The closed room allows privacy for the job seeker. Sloan leaves and gives them their privacy. It’s just them and a computerized interviewer. Some of the interviewers are nice.
“See this lady? She’s a tough one,” Sloan said.
The mock interviews allow job seekers to practice before the real thing, she said.
The interviewer asks the candidate questions that any human resources director might ask. The candidate practices and then watches themselves on playback video.
“If they don’t want a state employee [watching their video], we don’t have to watch it, so they don’t have to feel [embarrassed],” Sloan said.
But practice interviewees learn a lot. One woman told Sloan she didn’t realize she pounds on the table when she answers questions. Others have been wide-eyed with shock watching themselves wave their arms around like a bird.
“A lot of us don’t realize how many times we use ‘um’ or ‘like’ when we’re speaking,” she said.
You will after using this large-screen computer. “It counts the number of times you say ‘um,’” Sloan explained.
Sloan said it’s rewarding for her and her co-workers to see job hunters leave classes at the center saying they spent their time wisely.
It feels even better, she said, to see those job seekers “empowered” as they make their own decisions — and create their own successes.
This place is a lot more than an unemployment office.
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