Job center staff goes mobile; office now half emptyThe Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development announced in a press release July 16 that it’s saving money by making some job center staff mobile rather than stationary.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development announced in a press release July 16 that it’s saving money by making some job center staff mobile rather than stationary.
The press release says DWD will staff two offices in each of the state’s 11 workforce development areas, for a total of 22 offices in the state.
The St. Croix Valley Job Center, 625 Whitetail Boulevard, is not one of those offices. It will lose its DWD staff, decreasing Job Center staff from 13 employees to six.
According to Richard Best, executive director of the Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, DWD staffed 38 job centers before the consolidation decision.
“Our board and people locally have been challenging this and will continue to challenge this,” he said.
The center caters mostly to people who need help finding a job. People needing help from either DWD division will now need to coordinate a meeting with the mobile staff members or travel to the next closest staffed center in central Wisconsin — either Eau Claire or Rice Lake.
The Job Center houses four employment-oriented functions: 1) The non-profit Workforce Resource that helps dislocated, low-income and young workers find jobs. 2) The non-profit Workforce Connection that administers county-sponsored child care and food programs and helps people get education and training. 3) DWD’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helps individuals with disabilities. 4) DWD’s Job Service, which assists the job-seeking general public.
Best said the state and two non profits worked together to establish the River Falls location, consolidating similar services offered in New Richmond and Ellsworth. He said the move leaves the two non profits responsible for the lease agreement that doesn’t expire until 2011.
“Less than two years later, they’re walking away from the deal,” said Best.
He doubts people will go to the trouble of making an appointment and attend a meeting.
“The people they’re trying to reach here are people with high needs who don’t have the resources to chase people down,” Best asserts.
Although calling DWD’s contact person yielded no answer from a person or machine, the press release quotes DWD’s secretary, Roberta Gassman: “DWD is committed to improving services and saving taxpayer dollars. Mobile state staff will travel throughout the region on an as-needed basis so services can be provided to the entire area.”
According to DWD, the consolidation is part of a statewide plan to enhance services for job seekers while reducing the overhead costs the state has been paying for the 38 job centers.
DWD estimates the overall savings to equal about $350,000. Its press release says the federal employment and training funds that pay for services have been cut by 73% since 1984.
The release says job service staff members will likely meet clients at technical colleges, community organizations and libraries. DWD says the money saved by the consolidation will help fund a new virtual job center and an expanded, improved state job Web site.
DWD also says it will seek public input by forming two groups: The Job Center Standards Workgroup and Virtual Job Center Advisory Committee. DWD also plans to create a new electronic newsletter to keep stakeholders informed and gather feedback.
DWD’s news release says it decided which centers to staff based on population, workforce needs, available resources and efficiencies like free or low-cost office space.