SUNBURY — The success and importance of the work being done at the PA CareerLink in Sunbury was on display Monday when Secretary of Labor and Industry Jerry Oleksiak visited the area to learn of efforts of hiring local workers.
Oleksiak made the rainy drive from Philadelphia to spend about two hours touring the facility, speak about PA Smart and listening to CareerLink employees and a success story as well as a representative from Dempsey Uniform and Linen Supply to hear how they work with CareerLink to recruit employees.
In addition to learning of the resources available to job seekers and employers in the area throughout the CareerLink building, Oleksiak was given a tour of the Link, a mobile career center. The mobile comes with WiFi, seven computer work stations, and numerous resources that allows staff to hit the road to reach out to communities in the nine counties covered by CareerLink which may not have a local office.
The first of its kind in the state, Megan Bair, operations manager of Central Susquehanna Opportunities Inc., said it was launched as a pilot in August 2017 and has served numerous functions. The mobile has appeared at the site of closing businesses to help displaced workers, at state and local prisoners to help soon to be released inmates begin the search for a job and have assisted new businesses with a way for potential employees to submit online applications.
The mobile is also driven to communities who don’t have local offices to assist those without a means of transportation in applying for jobs. Following Monday’s event, the mobile was parked in front of the Mount Carmel Public Library to provide services locally.
It was Oleksiak’s first opportunity to see the mobile, which he stated was “very impressive” and made note about wanting to create more opportunities such as the Link through the department’s budget to assist with employment in the Commonwealth.
“It’s important to go where the people most in need are,” he said.
When viewing a map of the CareerLink’s coverage area, Oleksiak looked at the nine counties and remarked, “That’s a lot of PA that you’ve got there!”
Of all the work being done in the Tom Wolf Administration, Oleksiak said he’s particularly excited about PAsmart, a new $30 million initiative to help people connect with resources for employment and job training throughout the state.
Out of that budget, $20 million is to be spent by the Department of Education in STEM programs for adults, with the remaining $10 million spent by the Department of Labor and Industry.
The $10 million breaks down to $7 million for apprenticeship programs and $3 million is added to $1.8 million existing from a Next Generation Sector Partnership. Oleksiak said he believes the state is on track to begin releasing the money in early 2019.
A success story
Jennifer Knoll, 45, of Middleburg, has benefitted from the services offered at PA CareerLink in life-changing ways and shared her experience to show what a success story looks like.
Knoll said she’d been employed in the education field for 20 years. Until September 2017, she was employed as a supervisor in a child care center and was university faculty in Philadelphia when suddenly, she was told her job and housing was being eliminated simultaneously.
Feeling defeated and her savings depleted, Knoll ended up in her parents’ basement. She said one of the hardest things about her situation was getting to the place of asking for help.
She recalled walking into the PA CareerLink in Sunbury with her head low to apply for unemployment and was met by a staff who gave her hope.
As part of her qualifying for unemployment, she had to take advantage of the resources offered to help with job seeking and she went to every workshop available.
Knoll received weekly CareerLink emails posting jobs and volunteer opportunities within the area, and in January she decided to apply for a tutoring position with the CSIU to get herself out of the house. That tutoring job led her to applying for a part-time position in June.
A second income was needed to supplement the part-time job, so Knoll said she began looking and that search led to her coming across the full-time adult education bridge instructor position through the CSIU with CareerLink and Watch Program.
The story came full circle for Knoll, beginning with walking through the CareerLink doors to file for unemployment and ending with finding her calling in life again.
Knoll received a round of applause upon finishing her story, and Oleksiak was so moved he asked if she could give her a hug.
To learn more about PA CareerLink and offered services, visit www.pacareerlink.pa.gov.