The flyers were printed and posted online and anywhere prospective workers might be found.
“Job Fair,” it read, against a red background matching the logo of Miramar Health Center, which was hosting the fair.
Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, which operates the clinic near Kennewick’s Vista Field, was not coy about its need for staffers. The clinic is hiring at all levels. Job seekers would be interviewed on the spot and potentially get job offers there too. Being bilingual was a plus.
The clinic opened about a year ago and wants to expand. It needs nurses, medical technicians, IT workers and maintenance staff.
Recruiters Maria Zuniga and Tony Jiminez sat at a table by the entrance, company swag spread out before them at the Sept. 6 job fair.
At the next table, Carya Baer and Ruby Aleman from WorkSource Columbia Basin sat behind a bank of laptops, a visible link to the job agency’s vast network of resources for both job seekers and employers.
Candidates were slow to come in, but the recruiters were unconcerned.
“Even if just one person shows up, that’s a success,” Zuniga said.
Over the course of three hours, traffic was light but steady and Miramar made two job offers.
“Opportunity only comes once. You have to go for it,” said a Kennewick woman seeking an entry level IT job and waiting to be interviewed.
In Washington, the unemployment rate stood at 3.7% in July, down from 5.2% a year earlier. In the Tri-Cities, it stood at 4%, the lowest unemployment level of the past three years, according to figures based on Employment Security Department data.
As new companies arrive and existing ones expand, job hunting seems like it would be easy. But it’s not and that’s where WorkSource Columbia Basin provides a critical connection between employers, employees, training programs and the network of social services ready to help.
The Columbia Basin office is part of the statewide WorkSource system and the U.S. Department of Labor’s American Job Center network.
“Our primary goal here is jobs and employment,” said Crystal Bright, WorkSource system coordinator for the Kennewick office at 815 N. Kellogg St., south of the Miramar clinic.
WorkSource sits at the heart of the local employment scene. It provides job seekers with workshops, resume assistance, interview training, networking opportunities and a full suite of career planning and training events.
It hosts job fairs at work sites such as Miramar and links clients to nonjob support such as health care, housing, transportation, food assistance, translation services and even connects veterans to military service-related benefits.
Its office on South Kellogg Street offers computers, Wi-Fi, printers and meeting rooms to support job seekers who need to create resumes and conduct interviews. Comfortable sofas and chairs offer a quiet place to sit and connect on personal devices, free from the distractions of home.
It has classrooms to support job seeker education and conference rooms with dual computers so staff can support customers who aren’t comfortable online or need added assistance.
The facility and all its services are ADA accessible.
For those who are still daunted by online job hunting, WorkSource has a multilingual phone line that lists jobs where employers accept paper applications.
Its services are free.
Bright said its work is driven as much by helping new and newly unemployed workers find their way through job hunts, training and related programs as it is working with employers.
Employers can upload job posts at Worksource.wa.gov, where they are marked as verified to protect job hunters from unscrupulous scammers. The site links to Monster.com too, which extends recruitment beyond the state.
WorkSource works with employers to research workforce issues such as local salaries, bonuses and other conditions they should consider when hiring locally.
In recent months, it has worked with employers such as Amazon Inc., which is hiring seasonal workers for its call center, and Love’s Travel Centers, which opened its new full-service truck stop at Pasco’s King City on Sept. 7.
WorkSource serves a diverse array of industries but keeps its focus on the most in-demand jobs, which currently are in the construction, health care administration and social services fields.
Bright said the system works best when it supports the job hunter beyond the mechanics of writing and submitting job applications. Do they need help with transportation? Housing? Health care? Food? Are they disoriented after being laid off from a long-term position? Do they want to pursue a GED certificate or high school equivalency diploma through Columbia Basin College, or do they need other training?
“We want to get to know them,” she said.
The job seeker’s WorkSource journey begins either in person or on a screen. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, job seekers typically began the process in person in Kennewick. The health crisis forced it to pivot online, and today that’s how most job seekers enter the system.
The process begins by scanning a QR code – which is posted on most WorkSource materials and on the electronic reader board outside its office. Visitors initiate the intake process by filling out a brief form.
While the goal is jobs, WorkSource looks to make good matches.
“We often tell people to slow down and get to know themselves. Not every employer is the right fit,” she said.
Its business services are available to help employers by hosting job postings, supporting on-the-job training and screening candidates.
The one thing it doesn’t do is facilitate claims for unemployment insurance coverage.
“We can help with reemployment,” Bright said.
Walk in: 815 N. Kellogg St., Suite D, Kennewick
Online: WorkSourceWA.com to make a one-on-one appointment or register for a workshop.
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