Job center helps single mom find her way

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Moving to a new town and finding a job is never easy. When that new town happens to be located on the Kenai Peninsula -- and the move comes in the dead of winter -- the task can become downright daunting.

Fortunately for job seekers, help is available. The primary resource available for job seekers on the peninsula is the Peninsula Job Center, located in Kenai.

That's where Soldotna's Julie Lane first went when she moved here from Louisiana in December 2001.

A single mother with two children, Lane had to find employment quickly after arriving on the peninsula. However, she found employment opportunities in the area are often lacking, especially in the winter. So she enlisted the help of the Job Center, hoping to find work so she would no longer have to rely on public assistance.

At the Job Center, Lane found a receptive, helpful staff willing to work with her in her search for work.

"They're wonderful people," Lane said in an interview last month.

Lane's involvement with the Job Center began shortly after she arrived on the peninsula in late 2001. She said that she began taking classes at the center as a condition of her being on public assistance, and from there, she began searching for full-time employment.

One of the people Lane met at the center was Job Center work services coordinator Susan Lacey. Lacey said Lane's case is a perfect example of how the Job Center's programs are supposed to work.

"Right off what happens is they get into a work search program where they actively pursue employment," Lacey said.

Lacey said that's just what Lane did, but initially, jobs were scarce. But instead of simply sitting around and waiting for work, Lane began helping at the Job Center, gaining valuable employment skills and keeping busy.

"(Julie) volunteered at the Job Center with work services," Lacey said.

While volunteering, Lane honed her office skills in preparation for finding work in the clerical field. However, things didn't work out exactly as planned. Positions in that field were hard to come by, so when an offer from Taco Bell came in, she jumped at the chance to get into the work force.

"She went ahead and took a job maybe not number one on her list, but she wanted to get back to work," Lacey said.

Lane began working at Taco Bell in March 2002. Although initially hired as a shift manager, she was quickly promoted to her current position as an assistant manager.

Her success moving from welfare to the workplace was so impressive, she was honored last November as one of six individuals singled out by former Governor Tony Knowles for a Governor's Workstar Award, an award given annually to individuals who succeed in moving from welfare into the job market.

Lane said her success has everything to do with the help she got at the Kenai center.

"It's a terrific program," she said. "What they do is give you the tools you need."

In addition to providing her with job training and work search opportunities, Lane said the staff at the Peninsula Job Center went out of their way to provide support and build her confidence during a trying time.

"They do a lot more than they're supposed to," she said.

And as for her job at Taco Bell, Lane said things couldn't have worked out better. She said the management has helped work around her family schedule to provide flexible scheduling options.

"They've really worked with me," she said. "(Taco Bell) has been nothing but help for me."

Lacey said Lane's story is a model for how individuals, the private sector and government agencies can work together to help people get off public assistance.

"It's really worked well," she said. "It's a partnership."

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