Kentucky Career Center looks to address ‘workforce disconnect’ during pandemic

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Posted at 11:09 PM, Jan 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-23 23:10:53-05

COVINGTON, Ky. — Charlotte Phillips never imagined she would find herself scrambling, in a pandemic, to find a job.

“I was scared beyond belief,” she admitted. “Not only was the country uncertain about its future, I was uncertain about mine as well.”

After spending the past seven years as a brokerage assistant, Phillips recently found herself out of a job and looking for work. That’s why in January, she walked into the Kentucky Career Center-Northern Kentucky office in Covington.

Looking for help with her unemployment, she instead found staff ready and willing to connect her with resources to help get her back on her feet.

“We have never stopped providing services,” said Ellen Bates, workforce innovation director at the career center. “We really make it a goal to provide safe, socially distant services. And we’ve been successful in that. We’re here to help.”

Bates said even though some industries like food service or hospitality have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, others like transportation, logistics, manufacturing or health care are actually desperate to hire new staff. She referred to it as a sort-of "workforce disconnect."

“There’s a lot of people looking for work, but there are jobs available for individuals,” said Bates. “We’re really trying to bridge that gap for job seekers and employers.”

The Kentucky Career Center-Northern Kentucky works with staff from the Brighton Center and the NKY Workforce Investment Board to support people looking for work and to help meet the needs of local companies in search of employees. When Phillips came looking for help, staff were able to bring her on in a temporary role as part of the Northern Kentucky Career Link Program.

“A lot of it was trial by fire,” said Phillips. “I jumped in. I saw an immediate need.”

The Northern Kentucky Career Link Program was specifically designed to respond to employment challenges brought about by the pandemic. The program offers temporary job opportunities and includes grant funding to help people pursue education or necessary certificates and credentials to find new work.

Phillips said she was worried she was too old to find a new career but is thankful the career center took a chance on her.

“I feel like I’m extremely blessed, but I also feel like I’m extremely fortunate,” Phillips said. “This has been very fulfilling, being able to help people like me who are in need of services and guidance and resources.”

The timing for Phillips lined up well: The Kentucky Career Center-Northern Kentucky was the first and only of the state’s career centers to resume some level of in-person services in January.

People looking for help are asked to schedule an appointment.

The Kentucky Career Center-Northern Kentucky offers help like job interview tips, education opportunities, training programs and resources to find jobs in our region.

It also has specific programs to help job seekers between the ages of 16 and 24.