CAPE FEAR REGION — NCWorks Career Centers throughout the region will begin hosting a staggered series of open houses — the first is from Jan. 14 to 18 in Shallotte — to broadcast free employment services and resources for those who are unemployed or seek career changes in the new year.
Scott Levine works with the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board (CFWDB), which oversees the state-funded career centers in the region’s four counties. For him, the need to offer employment resources comes from a large skills gap in a region that is home to advanced industries.
“We have several different higher-end industries in the region: advanced manufacturing, transportation, healthcare. What we recognized is that, in order to get the skilled talent to the employers in those fields, we needed to do a big marketing push to get the word out about the services available at local career centers,” Levine said.
Such services are founded by an approach that seeks to upgrade people’s skillsets and connect potential employees with potential employers.
Under the slogan “New Year, New Career,” the workshops will feature workshops, employer panels, job search assistance, résumé assistance, interview preparation, information sessions, and hiring fairs.
“There might be a chance for some folks to get a job offer the day they come in,” Levine said.
The centers will be staffed by NCWorks employees as well as partner staff coming in for the workshops from the state’s Division of Social Services, local rehabilitation agencies, community colleges, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Federal disaster relief grant specialists will also be on site during the week of each open house, according to Levine, to help those who are unemployed because of Hurricane Florence.
Levine called the career centers “shared houses” where state employees, contracted federal employees, community college staff, vocational rehabilitation staff, and literacy counsel all work together to guide, train, and link people to job opportunities.
The centers, he said, share a dual purpose: prepare people for certain jobs while linking them with employers who are looking for specifically qualified candidates.
Unemployed by Florence
Levine said that a large portion of the unemployment figures in the Cape Fear Region remain a product of Hurricane Florence’s widespread impact on small businesses.
During a three-week period immediately after the hurricane, Levine said the NCWorks career centers in Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender counties saw more than 2,800 people walk through their doors.
“Every day we’ve had folks coming in doing short-term disaster claims or unemployment claims,” Levine said in early October. “For the last couple of weeks, there have been anywhere from 30 to 100 people coming in every single day. And that’s just in our four counties – the storm hit the whole southeast area.”
The centers’ post-Florence relief work focused on assisting people who lost their jobs because of the hurricane file for disaster unemployment assistance and short-term disaster claims for unemployment, and link them to resources like the Small Business Technological Development Center for SBA loans.
Levine said the hurricane’s huge hit on small business owners — “the backbone of everything we do” — forced unemployment on hundreds of employees in the area.
Time and locations of the open houses
The region’s four NCWorks career centers will host open houses at the following times and locations:
- Brunswick County Workforce Center (5300-7 Main St., Shallotte): Jan. 14 – 18, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Columbus County Career Center (4564 Chadbourn Hwy., Whiteville): Feb. 4 – 8, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
- New Hanover County Workforce Center (1994 S. 17th St., Wilmington): Jan. 22 – 25, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Pender County Career Center (904-A S. Walker St., Burgaw): Jan. 28 – Feb. 1, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
NCWorks also features an enrollment website portal that links job seekers with employers and offers resources like résumé builders and job listings.