October 30, 2012

Hundreds attend Job Readiness Kickoff event in Dalton

Submitted by the Georgia Department of Labor

— More than 500 unemployed and under-employed northwest Georgia residents took part in a first-of-its kind Job Readiness Kickoff and Talent Attraction last week in Dalton. They walked away with a new understanding of what employers are looking for, a new résumé and a new level of self-confidence.

Dalton’s Ruby Shaw was one of those 500-plus who took advantage of the free résumé writing session and other workshops designed to help her grab employers’ attention, and get back in the workforce. The three-day event was a joint effort between the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce-Development Authority, City of Dalton, Whitfield County Government, Murray County Chamber of Commerce and members of the Murray-Whitfield faith community.

“I think this is great,” said Shaw. “I have learned so much that I didn’t know. I am learning how to approach things differently as I look for a job, and have gained a lot of confidence that I didn’t have before. I think this will make a huge difference in my job search.”

Like many of the others who attended the event at the trade center, Shaw said she will return for a big job expo on Dec. 5.

“When I return in December, I will have a better understanding of what skills the employers are looking for,” said Shaw. “This help is invaluable.”

The three-day event at the trade center was the result of talks between Dalton area business leaders and the Georgia Department of Labor as they searched for solutions to a unique problem. It was also the launch of the GDOL’s Special Workforce Assistance Team (SWAT), which is staffed by GDOL workers from across the state with different areas of expertise and special skills aimed at workforce disciplines.

“We consistently have the highest unemployment rate in the state, but we also have hundreds of jobs that we can’t seem to fill,” said Brian Anderson, president and CEO of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. “We knew we had to think outside the box to find the solutions, and find ways to match the unemployed with the jobs currently available. This event is the result of a great partnership between our community and the State Department of Labor.”

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the SWAT event was designed to find new ways to solve the disconnect between the unemployed and the available jobs in the Dalton area.

“We met with Dalton business leaders a little more than a month ago, and came away from that initial meeting looking for ways to find solutions,” said Butler. “Today, we are on the ground running with a one-of-a-kind event that has never been done before by the GDOL. This is about finding solutions, and getting Northwest Georgia back to work. This is a community-based solution to a community-based problem.”

“This event is designed to give us a snapshot of the available workforce.” said Butler. “We will use that snapshot to match the workforce with the available jobs when we return for the Career Expo on Dec. 5.”

The job seekers worked with GDOL professionals in creating new résumés free of charge, and attended workshops designed to increase their interview skills, overcome barriers, how to market themselves to potential employers and how to use social media in finding a new job.

Avery Padgett, an unemployed veteran looking for work, said he left with a new sense of hope.

“Knowing I had someone here who was willing to help me gave me hope,” he said. “I also found out today that there are people here who are committed to helping me as a veteran get back in the workforce, and that means a lot to me. I am so grateful for their help.”

Padgett said he hoped to be working by Dec. 5, but if not, would return for the Career Expo. He and the more than 500 others who attended the Talent Attraction will have another advantage when they return for the Career Expo. They will get the first chance to meet with representatives from local companies that have jobs to fill.  The doors will open to the public an hour later.

Chamber officials also left the event with a new sense of hope for their community.

“We are excited about what’s ahead of us,” said Anderson. “We have people who need help, and we will be able to give them the help they need. We are grateful to Commissioner Butler and the Department of Labor for their willingness to help us with this. We each have a role to play in this. We know our businesses, while the GDOL has the experts to help us match workers with the jobs.”