The sooner Jeron Hunt of Lithonia finds her next job, the better. The holidays are here and the 36-year-old former Walmart employee is looking to pay bills, buy gifts for her family and get ready for the New Year.
Despite the challenge of searching for work without the benefit of a car, computer or internet access at home, that wasn’t stopping Hunt from job searching recently during a chilly, rainy day.
Hunt was sitting comfortably in a tricked-out RV stationed in the parking lot of her apartment complex. With R & B playing softly in the background, Hunt’s gaze was glued to the computer while polishing her résumé and emailing potential employers in hopes of landing a transportation or sales job.
“This is exactly what I needed because it’s so cold outside and this is so comfortable and convenient,” said Hunt, 36. “I can’t think of a better way of looking for a job on a day like today.”
Like thousands of other local residents also looking for work, Hunt was utilizing the county’s WorkSource DeKalb Mobile Career Lab, aka the “Job Mobile.” The full-service vehicle is equipped with 13 computers at wood-paneled workstations, high-speed internet, printers, a whiteboard for presentations and a large screen TV. The vehicle is fully ADA accessible and has a wheelchair lift.
The four-wheeled, hi-tech resource center is travelling across the county, mostly stopping at public libraries, to help residents looking for work. The colorful vehicle recently made a daylong jaunt to the Hills at Fairington, the apartment complex where Hunt lives.
Tim Dates was staffing the WorkSource vehicle. He explained its main focus is helping residents craft or update their résumés, apply for unemployment benefits, identify job prospects and getting certifications for skilled job programss offered by Georgia Piedmont Technical College and Georgia State University/Perimeter College.
The mobile unit’s offerings are free of charge to individuals and the vehicle is also available to private businesses that can use it for recruiting, pre-employment screening, interviewing and training. The WorkSource mobile lab will be stopping in seven more locations in November.
“We’re trying to find every avenue to help people in DeKalb County get back into the workforce,” Dates said. “This is just one of them.”
Tanya Davenport, 48, an IT specialist took a buyout from her previous employer several years ago in order to take care of her sister who was battling cancer. With her sibling thankfully on the road to recovery, Davenport is now job-hunting for the first time in 30 years.
“I haven’t done this since I first started working,” Davenport said. “It’s much harder than it used to be and I’m just trying to figure out what opportunities are out there for me.”
Davenport picked up several job listings posted on the wall during her visit, hoping to find gainful employment within the next few weeks that will match her skillset and provide a sustainable income for her and her 13-year-old daughter.
“I’ve filled out applications but I haven’t had a face-to-face interview yet," she said. "I know it’s just a matter of time."
For Davenport and others with a strong employment history, the future looks promising as the job market continues showing signs of improvement. In September, DeKalb County’s unemployment rate was 4.2 percent compared to 5.5 percent at the same time last year, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. DeKalb is faring slightly better than the statewide unemployment rate of 4.5 percent; the national rate is also at 4.2 percent.
DeKalb’s WorkSource program is linked to statewide economic development efforts under the Georgia Department of Labor. The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) also manages a similar program for people who live, work or have been laid off in Cherokee, Clayton, Douglas, Fayette, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties.
During the last two years, an ARC study found the fastest growing job categories are hospitality/tourism, transportation, healthcare/nursing and ustomer service.
That could be good news for Ogechi Ekeogu, 26, who stopped by the WorkSource mobile facility hoping to find a customer service job paying at least $15-an-hour. A college student, Ekeogu has been supporting herself as a driver for Uber and Lyft but is hoping for a more consistent paycheck.
“I like working for myself but sometimes it’s slow,” Ekeogu said. “I’m glad I came today because I found out about some jobs that I didn’t know about. I’m going to follow up and I know I’m going to find something because I’m a good catch.”
For more information about the WorkSource Mobile Resource Center, contact (404) 709-4090 or (404) 687-3400.