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State office helps connect workers, businesses

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

New Mexico Workforce Connection is holding a job fair at the Roswell Mall on May 7.

It begins at 10 a.m. with early access for veterans at 9 a.m. It ends at 3 p.m.

Tad Scott is a career development specialist. He’ll be helping people prepare for the job fair.

“We’re working on a fast pass,” Scott said. “People can come in (to the local Workforce Connection office) on the 29th of April, and we’ll go over their résumé. We’ll go over their interview skills. Then, when we know they’re ready to get a job, we’ll give them a fast pass.

“It’s a ticket that shows employers which workers took initiative. You come in, show us the ticket and we’ll take you directly to the employers we talked about.”

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Often at job fairs, workers come in with their résumés and wander around the room, looking at each table, not sure where to start, or where to go next. Employers frequently sit at the tables hoping workers will show some initiative and step up to their table, prepared to interview. The fast pass was designed to solve those problems. Scott still wants people to show up, even if they don’t come in for the fast pass.

“If you don’t come down for the fast pass,” he said, “and you still want to be at the job fair please come. Dress to impress. Have your résumé ready and be ready to look for work.”

The New Mexico Workforce Connection office, at 2110 South Main Street, doesn’t much resemble the old Department of Labor offices.

“The department has changed,” Scott said. “There was a negative connotation connected with the ‘unemployment office.’ A lot of people avoided it because of that. That’s changed now. We’ve made the office more inviting. People who haven’t been in here for a while see the changes, it’s a lot different.”

Where the focus used to be on placement, and little else, now they focus on building the worker’s self-awareness. This helps them to market themselves to potential employers who can offer what they need.

“About 95 percent of the people come in here needing a boost in their confidence,” Scott said. “They hear employers tell them they’re not good enough, or they aren’t qualified enough. We break all that down and find out what they can work on. A lot of times it’s just a matter of reminding them that they’re capable, and helping them see the tools they need to get the job. Sometimes it’s just a conversation. Sometimes it’s a mock interview or brushing up their résumé. Sometimes it’s as simple as teaching them how to dress for the job they’re looking for.

“We have a real connection with our clients. We try to be the first warm step in the right direction. A lot of what we do is affirmation; reminding them that they’re capable. We have people with a lot of experience but they don’t know how to put it on paper in résumé format so I help them do that.”

While workers need jobs to feed their families, employers need workers to keep their doors open. Scott and his peers work with both sides of the equation to seek out the best solutions for everyone.

“You bring a lot to the table,” he said. “The main thing is showing that to employers. You’ve got to show them how they can utilize your skills, and what you want from them. You’re being interviewed by an employer and you’re interviewing that employer as well. You have every right to ask questions. A question I often ask employers is, ‘How long will this process take?’ Then I have some idea how long we’re waiting to get a response from them.

“The more we get to know you and your work habits the easier it is for me to vouch for you. There are plenty of people that, by the time they go out to apply for work, list me as a reference because I’ve gotten to know them and I can believe in them.”

When Scott got his degree, he found many employers didn’t value it. They said they wanted people with real-world experience. People without degrees are often told the employer wants people with a formal education. The young are told they aren’t seasoned enough and the older workers are treated as if they’re too close to retirement.

New Mexico Workforce Solutions is working to change that culture.

“What we’re going for is a culture that focuses on skills,” Scott said. “We take every single job you’ve had, whether it’s volunteer work, home-making or anything else. Everything you do requires skills. They may include multitasking, networking, meeting deadlines, balancing budgets, debts-and-assets, and cost analysis. You may not look at the things you do every day as honing skills but they are. Everything you do, be it work or hobbies or volunteer work, you’re developing skills. That increases your employability. So you put the skills on paper and you tell employers, ‘This is what I can do.’ I tell people. ‘Let’s not worry about the job title. Let’s look at your skills.’

“Employers understand that we’re working to get their open positions staffed. We learn what they need so that we can find candidates that will best suit them. We create a relationship between the candidate we’ve been working with and the employer. We put our seal of approval on the individual as a worker and refer them to the employer. The employer can see they’ve been vetted by the workforce office. We’ve taken that burden off their shoulders.

“Sometimes there’s a conflict between what businesses expect and the workers’ response. For example, you can’t expect someone to have high qualifications if you’re only willing to pay $10 per hour. A lot has changed in the dynamic between employer and employee, and I think for the better.”

The New Mexico Workforce Connections office has a youth program for people between 16 and 24 who didn’t graduate high school. They help them get their GED, get a job and earn some skills toward building a career. They also work one-on-one with employers.

“We hold hiring events,” Scott said. “If an employer has positions that are difficult to fill we’ll have a hiring event for just that one employer. It’s like a mini-job-fair. They tell us the minimum qualifications for all the jobs they need to fill so we can start the process. We should already have potential employees in our system. Their time’s not wasted when they get here because we already have qualified people showing up. We’ve had events with Marshall’s, McDonald’s, the New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe, and with Job Corps. Quite a few local businesses have done this with us and they see a fair amount of success.”