Published September 20, 2011
Volume 19, Number 9

Alameda County Workforce Investment Board Has Strong Employer Focus

Most employers want nothing more than to retain good employees to keep their business thriving, observes MaryBeth McCarthy, the Business Services Coordinator for the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board. That is one of the driving principles behind the employer-oriented outreach the agency currently has underway. 

As described on its website, the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board’s mission is “to provide employers and job seekers with universal access to tools, resources and services that assist them with obtaining their employment and business goals.”

While many job hunters have found assistance through the agency's network of six One-Stop Career Centers, the business services side of the equation is not as well known. Prime areas of focus are layoff aversion and recruitment.

The Career Centers are the product of the Workforce Investment Board (WIB), itself the result of 1998 federal legislation that provides funding for employment-related resources and services to help companies remain competitive in the marketplace. Keeping workers employed benefits everyone.

Commenting on layoff aversion, McCarthy points out how important it is to be proactive. “Too often, companies, especially small businesses, do not know where to access help if they start to struggle. We like to help employers get in front of the situation before a negative outcome starts to occur.”

For instance, WIB was instrumental in helping one local employer secure subsidized software training for its 150-person strong workforce. Without an upgrade in worker skills, the company's existence was in doubt. After contact with the One-Stop, the company was informed that, after employee eligibility was verified, WIB could fund up to 50 percent of the training costs. That assistance not only helped avoid layoffs but also increased the chances that the company will turn around.

Alameda County WIB also offers a broad range of recruitment assistance, from identifying people with the right skills from its database and arranging interviews to providing financial support for retraining new employees. “There is no cost associated with the service,” McCarthy notes.

When layoffs do happen, the WIB team swings into high gear. State mandates require that employers of 50 or more notify the agency of potential shut-downs. “Our rapid response coordinator speaks with management and the union, if present, to see what can be done to prevent closure or at least save some jobs.” When there is no solution, the coordinator partners with the federal Department of Labor and the state Employment Development Department to advise employees about COBRA, unemployment insurance, and resources to help pay rent, utilities, etc.

The NUMMI closure in Fremont is one example of the ongoing assistance provided. Patience Ofodu and her team of business services representatives at the NUMMI Reemployment Center (NRC) are committed to placing laid-off workers “with good manufacturing skills who are ready to go to work” in new positions. Employers with job openings can take advantage of a range of services, including applicant screening and interview scheduling, along with subsidies for on-the-job training for workers who need to catch up on the skills required for the position. “We will even host recruiting events on site, all at no charge,” she says.  

To spread the word about proactive assistance, the WIB team is reaching out to those likely to have close contact with businesses when they first arrive in the area, such as local economic development directors and commercial Realtors. “We are hoping that by doing this we’ll be in more of a prevention mode,” she comments. For more information, email her at Marybeth.Mccarthy@acgov.org or call (510) 259-3839.


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