State wants to help area businesses, says official

Posted: Sunday, October 12, 2003

Following a directive from the state labor commissioner to strengthen the department's connection with business, a regional manager told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce his plans for assisting Kenai Peninsula businesses.

"The chamber of commerce is a partner we need to work closely with," said Ed Burke, Department of Labor and Workforce Development regional manager for employment and training in the Southeast and Kenai Peninsula region.

The overseer of state Job Centers, including those in Kenai, Homer and Seward, Burke said one of his goals is to provide employers with suitable, ready-to-work employees.

"We're working on a customer needs analysis that will allow us to learn your needs not tell you what the needs are," he said.

He listed employment seminars the Job Centers offer for employers such as one on discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 22 in Kenai and another there that afternoon on minimum wage, work permits and state labor laws.

"We can also offer a room at the Job Centers were you can come and do interviews or employee orientations," he said, adding that the new Home Depot store in Kenai will be using the facility Oct. 18 and 19 to do a new-employee orientation, in advance of the store's planned opening in December.

Burke told the local business people that the state labor department now has the ability to take job postings over the Internet and said within the next six months, its Web site should be listing the qualifications of job seekers looking for employment in Alaska.

Services the state offers job seekers include workshops on resume writing, dressing for success and interview skills, according to Burke, as well as specialized services for military veterans, vocational counseling, training and retraining for the workplace.

"I'm the kind of person who visits the Job Centers and randomly asks clients if they are getting the help they need," he said.

"If I hear they're not, changes will be made."

In addition to vocational counseling, Burke said the department is working with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District so job seekers can receive the training they need.

"We're working to see people can be employed or reemployed in something they've not been previously equipped to do. They can get added skills," he said.

He also said that through its adult basic education services, the labor department helps adults complete their general equivalency diplomas, the equivalent of a high school diploma.

"We'll do the best we can to serve the full peninsula's employment needs," Burke said.

During a question-and-answer session following his formal presentation, Burke said the veterans' assistance program in Alaska "took a $200,000 decrease in federal funding this year."

Asked if his department had a program to reach college students out of state to try to lure graduates back to Alaska, he said the department did not, but added that some information did go out to West Coast colleges last year.

"I'll be sure to get the word out to them," he said.

Responding to a question about what other types of training job seekers could receive at Job Centers, a training manager who works for Burke Carolyn Vanzant said, "It could be as simple as a computer class. The money is earmarked to meet your needs," she said.

She also said the centers have access to a nationwide network of training providers.

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