Massachusetts has announced a rebranding of its regional employment offices as part of a campaign to get the long-term unemployed back to work.
Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rachel Kaprielian said her office will put up 62 billboards across the state, put ads on the internet, and signs on mass transit in an effort to increase usage of the state’s 33 one-stop career centers.
" We are rebranding our efforts so that job seekers know how many services we offer to the job seeker and to the employer."
The career centers offer services such as resume writing, career counseling, and access to online job listings. The centers serve more than 248,000 job seekers and employers annually according to the state labor department. The goal of the rebranding is to increase use of the career centers’ services by 10 percent.
Kaprielian, who toured the CareerPoint Center in Holyoke earlier this week, said helping the long-term unemployed is a priority.
" The long-term unemployed is an interesting group in that a lot of their impediments are psychological on the part of the employer. Why has this person been out of work so long? What can we do to help them find work in an increasingly technological environment."
The state’s unemployment rate has fallen a full percentage point in a year and is now 6 percent. But there are areas in the state where unemployment remains stubbornly high. The April unemployment rate in Springfield was 8.9 percent.
Kaprielian said her office is emphasizing training programs in places like Springfield and Holyoke where employers want to grow but can’t find people with the skills required to fill job openings.
" Western Massachusetts is a good place for advanced manufacturing. Those are jobs that often require 18 month training programs, but with good starting salaries that provide a ticket to the middle class."
After spending a dozen years in and out of prison following convictions for drug-dealing, Manny Cruz went to CareerPoint for help and now works as a machinist at a plastics factory.
" If I can do it. I've been working for two years, I've been doing real good. Working long hours everyday."
CareerPoint and the FutureWorks career center in Springfield work with the Hampden County Sheriff’s office on a program that offers career guidance and job training to inmates and encourages them to take advantage of the centers’ programs once they are released.
Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe said more than 10,000 inmates have taken part in the program during the last 12 years and 73 percent got jobs they held for at least six months.
" They (inmates) are all coming back to the community and we want to make the streets safe, so it is important to have these kind of collaborations."
CareerPoint Executive Director David Gadaire said the re-entry program is funded by grants from a half-dozen different sources totaling about $200,000.
" The success is obvious. The statistics back it up. What we are looking for is help from ( Secretary Kaprielian) to get a line item for it in the state budget."
The Franklin County Sheriff and authorities in Rhode Island have approached Gadaire for advice on developing similar programs to help inmates find jobs after release.