Established as a result of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the American Job Center is a federal initiative that consolidates job training programs by giving federal dollars to states, which in turn provide funding to local workforce investment boards in order to increase employment opportunities and job retention. Pennsylvania CareerLink is one such program.
Sean Stanbro, operator of the two Pennsylvania CareerLink offices in the Pittsburgh region, spoke with us about how the organization functions.
North Hills Monthly (NHM): Why was CareerLink formed?
Sean Stanbro (Stanbro): The goal of the federal government was to provide statewide and local workforce investment systems funding in order to increase employment retention, improve quality of workforce, reduce welfare dependency and enhance the productivity of the nation. The idea of providing a better trained workforce, prepared workforce, a work-ready workforce is why we exist.
NHM: What is CareerLink’s mission?
Stanbro: Our mission is to get people back to work; our tagline is “Let’s Get to Work.” What we want to do is to help those who are unemployed, underemployed or looking for a change in career to get connected with employers. We help them in terms of job searching, resume writing, interviewing skills, all those kinds of things. We consider ourselves a one-stop shop for job seekers. There are no costs behind any of our services, so we provide job seekers the opportunity to get assistance in finding work.
On the flip side, we also work with employers and assist them in terms of doing pre-screening, hiring events, job fairs, and really trying to bring employers and employees together in one place.
NHM: How does the current joblessness rate in Pennsylvania compare to the national averages?
NHM: What is the full scope of services offered by PA CareerLink?
Stanbro: Our services range anywhere from just coming in and utilizing our resource room—kiosks of computers, copiers, phones, and faxes—to one-on-one career coaching. We offer workshops that focus on resume writing, interview skills, and job readiness. We gauge your need when you first come into CareerLink—we sit down and do a triage and talk to you about what you are interested in, what your needs are and why are you here; then we point you in the right direction. If you just want to update your resume and make copies, or if you are looking for more intensive services like one-on-one career coaching, we can provide those services.
We have specific individuals who work with veterans and service members; we have people who work with dislocated workers—those who are laid off through no fault of their own—who may be looking at a career change. We work with partner organizations, like vocational rehab services for those with disabilities, so basically, it’s up to the job seeker how intensive the services are that they require.
NHM: How many job seekers do you work with annually?
Stanbro: We see as many as 100 people come into CareerLink on a daily basis, so on average about 500 folks a week, between both of our offices.
NHM: Though this number probably changes daily, how many available jobs are listed on PA CareerLink?
Stanbro: Currently, we have 174,000 jobs listed for the entire state of Pennsylvania.
NHM: About how many employers do you work with, and from what type of industries?
Stanbro: We work with all types of industries, for entry-level to professional positions. Preferably we want to work with employers who provide full-time livable wages, but we cover everything from IT to healthcare, logistics, warehouse, security, retail, hospitality and more.
NHM: Why would a job seeker choose to work with PA CareerLink versus trying to find a job online, for example?
Stanbro: One reason is there is no cost involved with us. Two, we offer intensive services. Three, for individuals who qualify, we can provide vouchers toward covering costs of some training. We work with eligible training providers and connect the job seekers with training partners; we provide the funding or at least partial funding for those classes.
Signing up for Indeed and posting a resume is great, and that should really occur alongside working with us. When you work with us, it is very hands-on. We have a ton of workshop offerings: we work with adult basic education partners, rehab partners, ESL (English as a Second Language) partners, and we can help provide assistance in terms of barriers—for example, we can put people in contact with organizations that help with childcare, housing, and interview clothing.
We have a lot of resources that individuals can take advantage of. They can come in here and print their resumes, or sit down with a career coach and go over a resume, working on job readiness skills and interview skills. And because we work with employers in the area, they have access to things like hiring events and prescreening events. There’s just a lot of different options they can take advantage of as opposed to going online.
NHM: How did COVID shift your operations?
Stanbro: We were 100 percent virtual. We developed a learning management tool; a website where you can go in and take workshops, training, and get linked up with our partners and training providers. Frankly, what COVID did was force us to improve our local website to provide better information. It now gives us this opportunity, this extra piece where you don’t have to come down and see us like you would pre-pandemic. And we will continue to offer this virtual component at www.careerlinkpghlearninghub.org.
On July 7, we opened back up to the public by appointment only; we hope to be fully open to the public by the end of July.
NHM: What is the main message you’d like to get across about PA CareerLink?
Stanbro: We are a re-employment service. We want to provide opportunities for individuals, at no cost, to receive the services that they require in order for them to get back to work. Our mission is for no one to have to come through our doors because everyone is making a sustainable, livable wage. Until that happens, we are here. You call the shots in terms of your needs, and we adjust and provide services based on what you tell us.
We’ll work with you to show you how you can stand out, the skills you need, and because we work directly with employers, we know what those employers need. We have this ability to connect you and the employer directly. Because we can vet individuals for employers, we know what employers are looking for, and because we have this network of individuals, we are able to connect them.
For more information, visit www.careerlinkpgh.com.