By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Kansas has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, and Seward County is one of the top counties in the state when it comes to having the least amount of people looking for a job.
Now, a new office at Liberal’s Seward County Technical School can help further lower those numbers.
After the doors were closed to Liberal’s Workforce Center a few years ago, many job seekers were left waiting for individuals from an office in Garden City to make a weekly trip to the community in order to find out what could be done to help them find work.
Started in September 2009, the new KansasWorks office in located inside the technical school, and Paty Tovilla, the director of the office, said the new center is different from a traditional workforce center.
The distinction, she said, is that the new office allows job candidates more than just a chance to find work.
“We are working together with Local Area One, who provides lots of services like assessments and grants for studying,” she said. “The main idea of this place is to help people find a job, but we also help them do their resume, prepare for interviews, not just give them a list of job openings.”
This helps prepare seekers for a job, both in looking for one and keeping one, rather than simply giving candidates a list of job openings.
When KansasWorks opened in Liberal, the office was originally located in the Colvin Adult Learning Center. Tovilla said she was waiting for the office at the vo-tech to be ready before making the move.
“I moved in November when we opened this office at the vo-tech,” she said.
KansasWorks is an initiative of the Kansas Department of Commerce, and Tovilla said following the closing of the original workforce center, which was followed subsequently by the use of officials from the Garden City center in Liberal, state authorities decided Liberal was big enough, and the community needed an office of its own.
“They opened this office for Liberal and the surrounding area,” she said.
Tovilla said while business is good at her office, some people are using the center for filing for unemployment benefits. This is not the purpose of KansasWorks, but she said individuals can get help with filing a claim.
“Some people have been looking and have found what they want,” she said. “Some of them want a specific job, and nowadays, it’s more difficult just to find certain specific job. Some others, I keep working with them.”
Tovilla works alone in her office.
“It’s kind of difficult for me to leave the office because I never know when people are coming,” she said.
Tovilla said the center receives grants through the Workforce Investment Act, and people can use these to continue studies.
“If they are eligible, if they qualify, we can help in paying their studies,” she said. “Right now, we’re looking for people age 16 to 21 who have either in high school, graduating from high school or dropped school and maybe they want to come back to school, we can pay to finish their GED and go here to the vo-tech or at the college.”
Tovilla said that money is currently available, and it is received through taxes.
“It’s money all of us paid for, so I think it’s really worth taking advantage of the services,” she said. “Every single service that we offer is for free. I really would encourage people to come and to use us and use the services.”
Tovilla said sometimes, just a simple application filled out the wrong way closes job opportunities for individuals.
“Just coming and letting me help in filling out the application the proper way, how to build a resumé and a cover letter helps to be one step ahead of others that don’t,” she said.
Tovilla said KansasWorks works with both job seekers and employers.
“With employers, we help them look for the best candidate they’re looking for,” she said. “We post their openings for free on our Web site.”
That site is located at www.kansasworks.com.
“If they ask me for such and such skills for the candidate, that’s what I look for, and that’s what I send them,” Tovilla said. “I’m kind of the bridge between job seekers and employers. I also invite employers to use us.”
A wide variety of services are available at the KansasWorks office including:
o Job referrals are available when a candidate qualifies for a job listed with the office;
o Internet access is provided for self-service job searching – local, state and national jobs are listed on various Internet sites.
“Our staff is ready to assist you in becoming familiar with ways to easily access job openings,” Tovilla said;
o Assessment services are available to help discover career interests, aptitudes, educational level and work values. Specific assessments including proficiency tests for typing, data entry, spelling, math and 10-key are available;
o Job counseling assists in making vocational choices for those having difficulty deciding which career is right for them;
o Resumé and interview preparation is available through self-service computer-based programs or through personalized service by staff;
o Job search workshops have been developed to assist in setting career goals, planning job searches, developing a resume and preparing for interviews; and
o Services to veterans are available to all veterans – additional services may be available to veterans depending on disability status or time of active duty.
The Liberal Kansas Works office is located in Room No. T-154 at Seward County Technical College at 2215 N. Kansas. For more information, call (620) 417-1958.