ROCKINGHAM — The NC Works Career Center has struggled to shake its image as an “unemployment office,” as it was several years ago when it was called the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.
“It’s hard when Google Maps still lists us as that,” said Allison Melvin, manager of the Richmond County office.
NC Works still offers residents the opportunity to apply for unemployment benefits themselves over the computer, but the main function of the center is to connect people with employers, and teach them how to build a resume and perform well in job interviews. Melvin, who became the manager in October, said NC Works is meant to be a “one-stop shop” for those looking for jobs.
“We’re here for the rest,” she said. “For customers that come in and they have no idea what they want to do, we ask, ‘What are you passionate about? Where do you want to be in five years?…Do you realize it’s this close?’”
In March, the center partnered with Richmond Community College to provide courses to prepare people for GED testing. The courses cover basic topics like math and English and are held in the NC Works building on West Franklin Street. John Kester, director of Adult Education for RCC, said the partnership came out of a recognition that more jobs were requiring high school-level education or an equivalent.
“People have been pleased by the convenience of it,” Kester said, adding that there has been an average of five students in each course since March 6. “You come in looking for a job but that job requires a high school education … We can help them in one place.”
Holding the classes at the NC Works office also helps potential students who may have difficulty with getting transport to the James Building on Vance Street in Hamlet, where the other classes are held, Kester said. The classes at the NC Works building meet from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and are free — though there is a fee to take the final tests — and have open enrollment, meaning students can attend classes at their own schedule.
The center also has a representative available to register residents with NC Works at local libraries. The next availability at the Thomas H. Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham will be April 24 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The center has staff who work specifically with people who have disabilities, veterans and people convicted of criminal offenses who are looking for work. Barry Meachum, a career adviser at the center, said that when a potential employee has a criminal record, many companies assume it was a violent crime or that they are lifelong criminals, but “that’s often not the case.”
Meachum gave an example of a man he’s advising who got in trouble when he was 15 and it’s “haunted him ever since.”
“That’s the kind of person we’re trying to give hope to,” Melvin said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]