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Laid-off State Workers Can Find Work at Center

Published 08/28/2011
The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC

Twice a month, Bridgette A. Lacy writes about resources for the unemployed.

Jeff Baxley, who was laid off from the state's Department of Public Instruction, saw one line about a new career transition center for state employees in his Reduction-In-Force letter. "No one told me about it," explains the 54-year-old business analyst.

In fact, most laid off state employees don't know about the N.C. State Employees' Career Transition Center in Southeast Raleigh. Many workers who received their pink slips were bombarded with so much information that it was hard to identify all the resources available to them. Nor did all state departments do the best job getting the word out.

Baxley found out because he took the time to investigate. "I want to use every opportunity to find a new position," he said. At least once a week, he comes to the center to look for job leads, ask questions about unemployment benefits and attend classes.

The center is staffed with representatives from the Office of State Personnel, counselors from the Employment Securities Commission, and staff from the Department of Commerce's Division of Workforce Development.

The Career Transition Center is furnished with 10 computers, copiers and a facsimile machine as well as two classrooms for workshops. It offers online webinars, videos about job searching and interviewing help.

It's open to all state workers and public school employees who have lost their jobs or who have received notification of job elimination. Since January 2011, about 2,000 state employees have been laid off, said Margaret Jordan, a public information officer for the Office of State Personnel. That number doesn't include teachers and public school personnel, community college employees and employees of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

During an open house at the center earlier this week, State Personnel Director Linda D. Coleman said that "this was the largest reduction of force" of state government and that she anticipated additional cuts by Sept. 30, as federal funding for some projects ran out. Another round of layoffs is expected in December when some workers' contracts end and when several departments are consolidated including Crime Control, Correction and Juvenile Justice.

Joyce Weathersby, the team coordinator for the center, has been working with laid-off state employees for 30 years. "We set that center up so people would have a place to go to get the services and assistance they need to successfully transition to other jobs," she said.

Baxley said Weathersby has helped him with job leads and tinker with his resume. She also has been an advocate, making follow-up calls on his behalf since laid-off workers receive priority consideration for other jobs in state government. He's had six interviews since his last day of work at the end of July. Baxley, who is also a military veteran, says he also works with a veteran counselor at the Employment Securities Commission in the Smithfield office. The Clayton resident is accessing as many resources as he can.

Coleman and other state officials acknowledge that many state positions are gone for good and that some state employees must look at the private sector for jobs. So the center is trying to help workers find the best position available to them. State employees are also being asked in a survey about what kinds of classes and services are needed to help them since many will have to be retrained for jobs outside of state government.

The center offers a two-day workshop at which staffers go over health insurance, a foreclosure prevention program, resume writing and other helpful information. The workshop is perfect for workers who have been notified of an impending layoff and can go before the last day of employment.

"I want people to use this center," Weathersby says. "I can't put them in another job, but I can point them in the right direction."