Center offers one-stop shop for employment services

Whether it’s helping those hunting for jobs or job applicants, the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction offers an effective one-stop shop for a range of employment services.

A cooperative venture among the State of Colorado, Mesa County and Hilltop Community Resources, the center offers job searchers a computer database of current openings. Employers looking for workers can post job openings in the system. Neither the job seeker nor employers seeker is charged for the service thanks to the funding that comes from the cooperative agencies.

Not everyone knows about the workforce center and its services, even 13 years after it was established at the intersection of North Avenue and 29 Road But the number of visitors indicates the center is no secret. More than 12,000 people visit the front counter at the center each month, said Gilbert Lujan, supervisor of the center. Lujan isn’t sure how many might be repeat customers, but he believes most of them are new clients. Once clients register for the database, they can access job openings online. They even receive e-mail alerts when job postings matches their skills.

People who file for unemployment insurance benefits are required to register at the center. But the center also provides leads that enable the unemployed to fulfill their obligation to report a couple of job contacts each week.

The workforce center has participated in efforts at Mesa State College in Grand Junction to expand curricula to prepare students for job opportunities in Western Colorado.

“They always turn to us for advice,” Lujan said. “We worked very closely with them developing the nursing program.” Mesa State offers a wide range of nursing degrees — from a certificate of practical nursing to a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing to a doctoral degree in nursing.

In addition to helping link would-be employees to employers looking for workers, the workforce center helps job seekers hone their skills. Workshops help people update their résumés, answer and ask questions during job interviews, dress properly and follow up on leads.

Workshops also help job hunters develop skills to match new technology. Clients can learn the basics of the Internet and such Microsoft software as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher. Clients also can take courses to learn QuickBooks, Web design and medical technology.

People with children can leave them at a day care facility at the workforce center while parents go to job interviews or work.

There are even on-site counselors to help people suffering from mental problems that might result from the stress of being unemployed.

Helping people prepare for and acquire a job can be challenging and rewarding, particularly at a time when the monthly unemployment rate exceeds 11 percent.

Despite the satisfaction, Lujan said there are questions from people who wonder if the workforce center might offer so many services, it can entice people to remain unemployed. “There are people using the system,” he said. “We try to monitor that.” Lujan also encourages people to report any suspected abuses of the services.

“But by law, we’re required to service anyone who walks through the door,” he added

And he expects to continue serving thousands of people a month until the local unemployment rate significantly drops.