A small office in Oak Ridge provides a place for job seekers to get internet access, go to hiring events and find specialized job seeking services.
The American Job Center is located in Suite 102 of a white office building at 136 South Illinois Ave.. It's open 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Desktop computers and a fax machine are available to all job seekers there. The organization is a nonprofit with ties to state and federal programs and grants.
Richard Bennett, veterans' outreach program specialist, and April Batey, lead career specialist, spoke to The Oak Ridger about the location's services.
They said the job center, while open to everyone, specializes in services to help veterans, young people, workers from recently laid off or outsourced positions, previously incarcerated people and people who are receiving public assistance such as Supplemental Nutrition Assurance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These groups can get special help with job searching and issues pertaining to purchasing work supplies or connections to other services, which might be barriers to people finding work.
"If you're a job seeker, there generally is some way we can help if they qualify," Bennett said.
He shared more details about the services that have allowed him to help veterans.
"Really everybody's different," Bennett said regarding the veterans he helps. Some, he said, need help with child support, preparing resumes, transportation or mental healthcare. He said he refers veterans to U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) for health, as well as Aid to Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties (ADFAC) and Trinity Out-Reach Center for Homeless (TORCH) on housing. He also listed training programs and help getting clothes for interviews.
"I would compare it to a puzzle," he said regarding finding help for these unemployed veterans.
Bennett said "quite the spectrum" of people come through the office, from homeless people to people with doctorate degrees, but that most of those seeking employment are blue collar workers. He said during the earlier part of the COVID-19 pandemic few people came to the center, but people are starting to come more often now.
"We could serve a lot more people," he said. "A lot of people don't know we're here."
He also encouraged employers to reach out to the center as well.
"Everybody who has hiring needs and wants to work with me, I can work for them," he said.
The Job Center will also host a hiring event every Tuesday in April, May and June from noon until 4 p.m. Applebee's restaurant will be there on April 19, and Harrison Construction on April 26. Bennett also promoted an upcoming hiring event for Powder Cote II Inc. located at 193 Frank L. Diggs Drive in Clinton Thursday, April 14, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Bennett said the center plans to do a job fair for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related jobs at the American Museum of Science and Energy in July.
For more information, call (865) 455-6656 or email Richard.Bennett@tn.gov.