Yolo County’s YoloWorks! Launches Virtual Employment Center
Job attainment and security are more important than ever, but unpredictable COVID-19 regulations and a turbulent economy have proved it difficult for applicants to access the employment specialists and career services they need. Prior to the pandemic, YoloWorks!, under the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency, was able to offer in-person career center support and counseling to Yolo County residents from its local offices. However, without a uniform method of providing real-time employment support virtually, the employment center needed to pivot to maintain the full extent of its workforce services.
To address this challenge, YoloWorks! Program Coordinator Erica Johnson developed and aided in the launch of the employment center’s first virtual career center platform. The Virtual Employment Center went live on November 16, enabling Yolo County residents to virtually receive career and vocational training services from employment specialists and case managers.
Making Career Help Available & Accessible
Open 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Monday through Friday, the Virtual Employment Center (VEC) opens up a myriad of new connections between job seekers and employers. Offering these essential services virtually eliminates a multitude of barriers for new entries to the workforce, including maintaining personal health, reducing travel costs, and more. Training opportunities and the location of available jobs are just two examples of the many services offered by the VEC.
“Supporting the needs of job seekers with our intelligent chatbot has revolutionized how citizens discover jobs in Yolo County,” said Erica Johnson, YoloWorks! Program Coordinator. “Job seekers can now schedule time with YoloWorks! employment specialists to locate relevant work anytime, anywhere, and have common questions answered quickly in their native language. This is exactly the type of support we want to provide the people of Yolo County.”
Digital Inclusion and the Community
The VEC is a platform that requires internet connectivity to fully utilize. Thus, this calls for adequate infrastructure in the community it serves. YoloWorks! has partnered with Google to provide the “Loan to Own” Chromebook Program for those who might not have access to the devices they need to be successful in this era of virtual integration. Successful completion of this program allows participants to permanently keep their Chromebooks, providing them with a computing device and the ability to earn a work-skills online certificate with digital badging. As of December of 2021, 180 of 250 Chromebooks have been distributed to Yolo County residents. 35 Yolo County residents have completed the program and now own these devices. And to ensure that the platform is accessible to as many communities as possible, Yolo County job seekers can utilize the portal’s chatbox in the region’s three most common languages—English, Spanish and Russian.
This partnership has also granted Yolo County’s YoloWorks! with 500 Google Career Certificates, which are available to Yolo County residents to apply for and receive for free. These certificates include credentials in areas like IT, Project Management, User Experience Design, and Data Analytics. They also provide interested participants with valuable skills such as interviewing tips and connections to 140+ companies that are a part of an employer consortium consisting of nationally-recognized organizations who are hiring for entry-level talent.
From Tragedy Comes Opportunity
With the rise of online outreach and virtual events comes a unique need for collaboration between employers and communities. The VEC constantly works with community partners to ensure that job opportunities are being announced with ample time for applicants to gain access to workstations or smartphones. Additionally, the portal itself promotes ease of access by giving patrons the ability to attach necessary documents (resumes, applications, etc.) and syncing with the account’s Google Calendar. From supplying required technology to providing a user-friendly interface, the VEC is already making waves in terms of reaching the people who would benefit the most from its services.
“The pandemic really shifted the way in which we think, work, and live,” Johnson said. “We wanted to put a service out there for folks that is always available, whether or not they want to come in person.”
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Danielle Susa is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.
Renee John is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.