PAINTER: Mich. Works matches job seekers with employers

May 16, 2012


But for many of the unemployed, finding a job has been an adventure that they would prefer to avoid.

Many companies are now posting their job openings online, and potential employees are asked to submit a resume and/or complete an application through websites. Those people applying online have to deal with a faceless process — and are often rejected without going beyond the first step in the process.

Michigan Works of Ottawa County is doing its best to see that employers and job seekers meet face to face.

On April 29, Michigan Works conducted its second weeklong Michigan Ready Now program at Central Wesleyan Church in Holland. The event brought together eight employers and more than 100 job applicants.

“This wasn’t just a typical job fair where you shake someone’s hand and turn in a resume,” Westmaas said. “All the job applicants were guaranteed two interviews.”

Westmaas said Michigan Works came up with the idea for the program in response to employers saying “they can’t find good employees, and job applicants saying they can’t find jobs.”

This was the second year that the program was offered by Michigan Works. Westmaas said the first event held last year was a huge success. “We had more than 50 people who found jobs,” he said.

The results from this year’s program haven’t been tabulated yet, but Westmaas expects similar results.

Westmaas said Bill Raymond, executive director of Michigan Works of Ottawa County; and Randy Thelen, president of Lakeshore Advantage, the economic development agency for Holland and Zeeland, were instrumental in bring the program to fruition.

“This was a program that helped both the employer and job seeker,” Westmaas said.

The Ready Now program began on a Monday morning with groups of job seekers sitting at tables with a representative from Michigan Works agencies throughout West Michigan. The job seekers, most of whom were unemployed, were asked to tell everyone at their table about themselves.

Westmaas said this was a great way for everyone to see that they weren’t alone in the difficult and sometimes frustrating search in finding employment.

“For many job seekers, it is easy to lose confidence and ambition,” Westmaas said. “This event gave them hope.”

Representatives from the eight manufacturing companies in the Holland area discussed what attributes they were looking for in potential employees. They also answered questions from job seekers.

Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning were spent with job seekers attending workshops on writing resumes, tips on being a productive employee, understanding different personalities in the workplace and team-building skills.

Westmaas said many of the job seekers also visited Michigan Works’ offices in Grand Haven and Holland on Wednesday and Thursday to get individual help with writing resumes and on how to conduct good interviews. “They (job seekers) were definitely motivated,” he said.

On Friday, the eight companies conducted interviews with the job seekers throughout the day. Westmaas said 86 of the job seekers who attended the sessions showed up for interviews.

While Westmaas is still awaiting results as to how many job seekers landed employment, he has received positive feedback from surveys submitted by the employers and job seekers.

“Almost all of them really liked what we are doing,” Westmaas said.

Michigan Works of Ottawa County is now looking at bringing a similar program to the Grand Haven area. Westmaas said there already have been discussions with Grand Haven-area employers and the local Chamber of Commerce about holding the event in Grand Haven.


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