CareerSource Northeast Florida has partnered with St. Johns River State College to help connect residents looking for jobs with employers.
In partnering with CareerSource, the college will make additional space available at its workforce development center to assist job seekers who may have been displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The W.M. “Bill” Thomas Center for Workforce Development is at 1001 Husson Ave. in Palatka.
CareerSource plans to open the center to residents later this month.
“The college plays a key role when the economy suffers,” said Melissa Miller, executive director of the Palatka campus of St. Johns River State College. “A lot of times, people go back to school to train or increase their skill set. We want to help them more easily find the tools and resources they need to obtain the career they’re seeking.”
The national unemployment rate jumped to 14.7% in April because of the pandemic, up more than 10 percentage points from March.
While the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity won’t release rates for the state and Putnam County until later this month, jobless numbers are expected to go up. Putnam County’s rate was at 6% in March, while the state’s was at 4.3%.
CareerSource, an employment service center, closed its offices in March due to the pandemic but continued to offer services online. It tentatively plans to reopen its centers – including the location at 400 State Road 19, Suite 53 in Palatka – May 26.
When it does reopen, CareerSource plans to use the college’s workforce center as well as a satellite office on campus as additional space for job seekers to use while maintaining social distancing.
“With the college basically being closed now to students, we had space available on campus and at the workforce training center on Husson Avenue,” Miller said. “We thought it was an excellent source of synergy and use for the center.
“First and foremost, it’s a service to the community because everybody is going to need all the help they can get.”
Ron Whittington, communications consultant with CareerSource, said there are about 2,100 full- and part-time jobs available in the region it serves, which includes Baker, Clay, Duval, Putnam, Nassau and St. Johns counties.
CareerSource will work with the college to have eight to 10 computers and workstations available
“We’ve got to change our processes and avoid crowds, which is an odd situation because we need every bit of space for social distancing,” Whittington said.
“There are fewer workstations in resource rooms and we are relocating workstations into conference and training rooms so that we can maintain or increase our capacity to serve job seekers while keeping everyone as safe as possible at all career centers. We are also installing clear shields at each of the front counters as an extra precaution. The safety of our staff and job seekers is paramount in all of our decisions.”
Whittington said CareerSource will help connect people with open positions and with their job search.
Miller said CareerSource offers a variety of benefits to those visiting centers.
“For those who may not be as computer proficient, staff will be there to help with searches,” Miller said. “Their folks know the job market and now where the openings are. They can steer people in the right direction who might not be able to find something on their own.
“CareerSource has been a great partner for our students and for the community. We’re about helping people find their careers and training to help place them into careers.”
Wayne McClain, vice president of the Beck Automotive Group and a member of the board of directors for CareerSource Northeast Florida, said the partnership with the college will provide more access to residents who are looking for work or help filing unemployment claims.
“It’s unprecedented what has happened and CareerSource is changing and evolving to meet the needs of what the coronavirus has done to us,” McClain said.
“(The workforce center) is going to provide a better facility because there are a number of people who need jobs and are looking for work. They won’t have to leave Putnam County to get this service.”
For more information on CareerSource, visit careersourcenefl.com.