By: Pamela Macek
What kind of people do you help? Lauren Murphy sat only for a moment to think about the question before giving her reply. “People who went off the track of life and are now back on.” For the past six years, Murphy has been the Executive Director of the Passaic County One Stop Career Center in Paterson. She has seen individuals of all ages and from every type of socioeconomic background enter the One Stop Office in need of the same thing – work.
Currently New Jersey’s unemployment rate is comparable to the US, coming in at about 4%. While that is reflective of the continual drop since the incredible high of 9.5% almost a decade ago, it still means there are large numbers of people who are out of a job. That is where the One Stop Career Center comes in. Under the umbrella supervision of the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and funded by the Department of Labor, this public nonprofit organization has been created to provide services for the youth, mature workers, adults, dislocated workers, veterans and people with disabilities.
With those statistics in mind and a desire to create an entity that would provide solutions to unemployment, the One Stop Career Center began. Murphy shared, “The vision for the program is to help people who are either unemployed, been displaced from their employment, have never worked or need training for a new career.” This highly successful program has proven to fulfill that vision by maintaining planned goals and following up on projected outcomes.
The OSCC program envelopes a structure that provides a single point of contact (One Stop) with a full menu of services, continued partnerships with outside agencies, schools, organizations and businesses, run by a group of skilled job developers and a business service team. Both job seekers and employer customers benefit from these services. Job seekers have access to current, on-the-job training preparation and employers have access to all OSCC resources, including for recruitment, outplacement, training and development.
OSCC also collaborates with local community organizations in an effort to ensure job seekers are responding appropriately to these employment opportunities. Murphy explained, “We are in a partnership with connections to many organizations. There are colleges, the Department of Labor, the State of New Jersey, the Department of Unemployment, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the County Welfare Department, and the Youth Department.” With such a wide array of collaborative partners, it is no wonder the OSCC experiences a high success rate for clients securing employment.
Who comes into the Center for help? Murphy shared, “All kinds of people come to us for help. Generally, more men than women, but even that is changing, as women are realizing that for a number of reasons they have to go back to work. It could be that after raising a family or finding themselves in need of work later in life after a divorce they are now entering the workforce.” She went on, “We welcome everyone, from as young as 16 up until 70 years old. If they can work, they can come to us for help.”
What about veterans? After serving our country, many veterans face the realization that development in technology has created gaps between their skill set and the experience needed for a particular job. They are usually unaware that American Job Centers have a mandate to connect veterans to job openings. OSCC desires to assist every veteran that comes to them, helping to provide priority services that will help in the transitioning that takes place from military to civilian life. OSCC is the source for veteran’s reemployment, providing employment, training, and financial assistance in their transitional services.
Young people are also in need of guidance and special training. The OSCC provides training programs for youth between the ages of 16 and 24. They can schedule an appointment to meet with a career counselor to discuss their goals and assess their skill set. There is no discrimination. Any youth who is economically disadvantaged, displaced or who has special needs can receive help.
The Passaic County One Stop Career Center (OSCC) is just that – a place where an individual can go to as the source for all their employment needs. The list of services is quite impressive and equally as comprehensive, addressing every need imaginable to the individual facing this situation. Employment seekers can go directly to the Paterson location, 200 Memorial Drive, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 – 4:30 p.m. or find additional contact information and office locations through social media or on their website.
When beginning your journey through the One Stop Career Center, you will be assigned a caseworker, who, beginning with one-on-one sessions, will walk you through the entire process, until you are gainfully employed. Caseworkers are trained to know the ins and outs of this program and can help to identify how to best address the needs of their clients. They understand that the person sitting across from them at their desk is oftentimes dealing with fear, anxiety, depression and stress. They are trained to be not only knowledgeable about the program’s process and current job market, but also as a source of compassion, understanding and encouragement. It is common for clients to forge strong, positive relationships with their career counselors by the end of their time in the program.
What is the next step? Start by scheduling an appointment with a career strategist. The advice they give will provide clarity for the direction their client should proceed in. Additionally, career counseling, vocational evaluation and training referrals are just some of the initial steps towards reaching a client’s goals. The program is designed to anticipate a variety of clients and has created a variety of tools for their use.
What type of services does OSCC provide to employers? OSCC is specially equipped to match clients who have completed their training with companies holding vacant spots for trained individuals. Some of the initial services include job search and placement services, referrals to community resources, vocational assessment, testing and evaluation, job leads and resume development. Customized job search plans can be created and will include direct job placement services, professional workshops and access to Passaic County job openings. Employer staffing, disability services, transitional support services and unemployment services are also a part of the services offered. With approximately three dozen types of services available, there is some type of training suited to any type of person in preparation of any specific job. For the unemployed, showing up, hard work and persistence are all that is needed to create a successful outcome.
Along with assessments, career coaching and job searches, additional education in a school setting may be needed. How can a client attend college? “OSCC will fund up to six thousand dollars for each person. Once they complete their course, we will pay the remaining balance to the school after employment is secured,” explained Murphy. The outcome of this opportunity can be either steps towards a college degree or some form of completion of an adult class in a given area of study or work experience that results in a certificate of completion.
Once an individual becomes a client, a pro-active, busy schedule commences. Murphy gave insight on what to expect. “Every day there are workshops on resume writing, how to do research on the internet and how to handle an interview. When a client is ready, they can enjoy browsing through our Career Closet, where we provide them, free of charge and outfit to wear on their interview or first day of work.” This is the kind of support that goes beyond just helping a person develop the needed skill set for a job. This type of connection to their clients builds confidence, which is a key ingredient to a successful interview.
One Stop goes even further in ensuring that their clients successfully complete their program and secure employment. “We have training programs with incentives built in,” explained Murphy. OJT – On the Job Training, is a program in which a job seeker who has completed the program, can offer a potential employer, as incentive to hire them. If an employer is willing to hire an OSCC client, then OSCC will reimburse the employer for the first six months through their On the Job Training Program. During that time, 50%-90% of the client’s salary will be reimbursed to the employer by OSCC. Now that is an offer that many employers cannot refuse.
At the end of the job seeker’s journey, the One Stop Career Center holds a yearly awards dinner. Career counselors each select a client of theirs who displayed persistence, a strong work ethic, consistent effort and a great attitude, ultimately resulting in securing employment. This form of recognition is priceless to the person receiving such an award and reflects the level of teamwork and commitment it takes from everyone involved to take a job seeker and turn them into a job holder.