By Charlie Bermant and Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
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The program that began offering free classes in January received a renewal grant recently -- although it was less than half of the original startup money -- and is on track for 24 two-hour workshops as well as a variety of resources for those who are trying to figure out how to support themselves through hard times.
All classes, meetings and resources are free.
"Our purpose is to help people transition themselves into a new career," said Susan Wilson, a consultant to the Port Townsend Library who manages the program, wrote its guidebook and conducts the workshops and weekly job-club-style meetings.
"We help people who are unemployed to emphasize their strengths and prepare themselves for a changing job market," Wilson said.
Wilson has yet to schedule the workshops, but she expects them to begin later this fall and said she will give ample notice before they begin.
Meetings each Monday
Weekly meetings for job-seekers will be at 9 a.m. each Monday at the Pink House, 1256 Lawrence St., Port Townsend, starting today.
"This is one of the most important programs offered at the library," said Theresa Percy, director of the library at 1220 Lawrence St.
"Of everything we do, it offers the most direct benefit to the community."
Along with the workshops and meetings, the library has added more than 500 books, CDs and DVDs on the topic of employment and career change, and has a page on its website devoted to career transition at http://tinyurl.com/28cfqvx.
The first round of the program, which was funded from last November through August, served about 75 people, Wilson said.
She sees no sign that demand has diminished.
Plenty of demand for service
"A lot of people coming to see us were highly skilled" and were good workers who had always held a job, she said.
"They were dumped out of a job. They're in their late 40s and 50s. How do you get a job again?
"You have good credentials and nobody's hiring you. What do you do?"
The problem is hardly local. It's national.
"There are not enough jobs for the work force in this country," Wilson said, although she could not provide figures.
"So this is going to be an ongoing problem.
"Baby boomers who thought they were going to retire are not able to do so because they lost all their savings in the financial fiasco a couple of years ago," she said.
"There are people trying to hang on to jobs, and young people trying to get jobs.
"Until we create some jobs, it's going to be a problem."
The money supporting the Transition Yourself program is from the Office of the Secretary of State; Washington State Library as part of the Renew Washington Project, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The inaugural 10 months of the program was funded with a $47,500 grant, which paid Wilson's salary and bought supplies.
The new grant is for $25,000.
"We're looking for other options for funding," Wilson said.
The library also is working more closely with other organizations that provide help to job-seekers.
Those groups include the state's WorkSource, Olympic Community Action Council, Olympic Area Agency on Aging, Jefferson County Library, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and Washington State University Team Jefferson.
The program is not offered in Clallam County, Wilson said.
"Other organizations work with people in various ways," Wilson said. "We're trying to collaborate" and refrain from duplicating services.
"We want to best use the money we have to make the best program we can, working with other agencies that are working with job seekers."
Among those who especially need help are workers 50 and older and teens.
"There also are some gaps in service for veterans," Wilson said.
What Wilson aims to teach -- along with the usual resume-writing and job-seeking skills -- is how to make a career change.
"It used to be that people were on unemployment for six months and then they had a job," she said.
"Now people are on it for a year or more -- and still don't have a job."
Wilson, who endured a "substantial period" of unemployment after more than 20 years' experience in employment programs, knows what it's like.
"People need to start thinking differently about how they are going to support themselves in this economy that's probably going to stay this way for a while," she said.
Can a person who just lost a job afford to retire by downsizing? Can the person go back to school and retrain? Can the skills that person has be refocused in a different career?
"I can help them get into that kind of thinking so they can make their own choice," Wilson said.
Some of those Wilson has worked with opted for more training. Others started their own businesses.
"Other organizations are helping people write resumes and search for work. We cover resumes as well, but it's also changing the thinking, to some extent, of the people to 'maybe I can't do what I used to do, and I have to figure out how I can make it work so I can survive.'"
For more information about the program, e-mail Wilson at email@example.com or phone 360-385-3181.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or email@example.com.