Organizations increase services for unemployed

By Katie Demeria

A recent award to Goodwill Industries of the Valleys will increase the options available to job seekers in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

The Shenandoah Valley Workforce Investment Board provided a contract to the organization through the Workforce Investment Act Title I program. The contract is meant to serve youth, adults and dislocated workers, according to Sharon Johnson, CEO of the investment board.

The board goes through a hefty approval process before choosing where to award the contract. This year, Goodwill was the only service provider selected, Johnson said. Goodwill received a $1.6 million contract.

The investment act program allows organizations like Goodwill to provide services in various degrees, according to Mary Ann Gilmer, senior regional director of workforce development with Goodwill.

“The core level of services is, naturally, for any job seeker in the community,” Gilmer said. “It can include access to job applications, staff-assisted job searches, access to computers, and some resume writing workshops, all those types of things.”

They also provide more intensive services to eligible individuals, Gilmer continued.

“They may be low income adults or youth, they may also be laid off workers that are qualified for specific programs, and those individuals receive more intensive staff- assisted services to help them get back to work,” she said.

Goodwill officials are hoping to help workers respond to the changing job market, Gilmer said. The manufacturing industry, for example, has changed a great deal and now differs significantly from the traditional operations with which a worker may be familiar.

“It can be just as simple as somebody who has been out there and recently experienced a lay off and knows they need to upgrade their skills,” Gilmer said. “The businesses in our area need those highly skilled workers.”

The program also specifically serves the youth in the community, specifically helping those who have some barriers to success, such as youth in foster care, those who are pregnant or are parents, or those who are below reading or math grade levels.

Goodwill helps them prepare for secondary education or employment.

“The services are different. We do a lot of work with career readiness, academic preparation, and leadership development,” Gilmer said. “Frequently, they’re the ones who are disconnected from their community.”

Because the workplace changes so rapidly, Johnson said, oftentimes someone may need help maneuvering the standard job search when they start seeking employment again.

Gilmer pointed out that, even though the unemployment rate may be declining, many employers are reporting that there are issues with the individuals in the labor market looking for work.

“Maybe they don’t have the skills necessary or the academic preparation necessary to be successful in the current economy,” Gilmer said. “These programs can really bridge that gap and offer the career and occupational prep that will meet the needs of businesses.”

Goodwill has a location in Winchester from which staff members are deployed to work with individuals in the surrounding counties, Gilmer said. Contact the office at 411 North Cameron St. or by calling 540-545-4146.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or

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