Created: 06/12/2012 7:23 PM KSTC45.com | Print Story
By: Mark Saxenmeyer
Both good and bad news to report for Minnesota's job hunters.
Out-of-work Minnesotans are about to get their unemployment benefits shortened. The maximum length of extended unemployment benefits will decrease later this month from 60 weeks to 46 weeks.
That's because the unemployment rate has dropped in the state. At the height of the recession, unemployed Minnesotans could get up to 86 weeks of benefits. Statewide, the unemployment rate in April was 5.6%.
All of the seven county metro area, though, is doing better than that. Only Anoka and Ramsey counties have unemployment rates higher than 5%. The other five metro counties were all under 5% unemployment.
Still, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 300,000 Minnesotans are either unemployed, under-employed, or have stopped looking for a job.
As a result, Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners (IOCP) has put together a comprehensive program to help job hunters.
On Tuesday, it sponsored a job fair that brought 200 people to its Plymouth headquarters. 19 employers and eight training organizations participated.
Pressing the flesh at the fair, Robert and Marina Vasquez were at their lowest point ever.
"I got laid off from my job last week," Robert said. "I was blind-sided by the whole thing."
And Marina has been out of work almost a year. "It's been very stressful," she said.
But on Tuesday, some good news--finally.
"I got a job!" Marina exclaimed as the fair was concluding. It's a position with a collections agency. She starts Wednesday.
Both Marina and Robert credit IOCP for teaching them updated computer skills in its new learning center, so much so that Robert left the fair with renewed confidence. I'm hoping that i'll get some callbacks," he said.
Hiring should only get better in the next three months. 22% of Minneapolis businesses expect to hire in the third quarter--meaning they'll bring on more staff from July through September. Only two percent of businesses in minneapolis expect to decrease staff levels.
The competition is tough. Andrew Pickens, a recuriter at the fair from Park Nicollet Health System, said, "With the number of qualified people out there we are able to be pretty selective."
IOCP leaders say boosting job seekers' sinking self esteem has become a key focus. "You just keep going," said Kathryn John, IOCP's employment services manager. She says she tells people to keep applying no matter how much rejection they get. "Do it again and again and again and you don't quit until it happens."
"They're really changing people's lives--they really are," said Terra Graham. When she was laid off from The Home Depot, "I didn't have, you know, much belief in myself."
But through IOCP's mock interview classes, she learned how to make a better impression. Equally helpful--IOCP's free daycare that enabled her to take the class while her kids were being safely cared for.
She just laned a job at Lowe's.
Terra is one of 78 people IOCP has now helped land a new position with its new services. She's excited, and relieved. "I'm happy to be on the payrolls--anybody's payroll, you know. I've got two kids at home that I'm supporting so it feels really good. And I really feel like I'm accomplishing something. I'm doing something."
Because new jobs bring new hope.
"This place will definitely hep people," Terra added. "It helped ME!"
For more information about IOCP's employment services and their next job fair, log on to http://www.iocp.org/
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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